Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Wednesday that the world is in a full-blown economic “depression,” but his office quickly scrambled to say it been a slip of the tongue.
In his latest apparent gaffe — after mistakenly claiming to have “saved the world” in December — Brown said governments need to agree on coordinated stimulus measures to “take the world out of depression.”
Brown, who is to host a summit of the Group of 20 advanced and developing nations in April, underlined the need for a rapid agreement on the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s Doha round of trade liberalisation talks.
“The biggest danger that the world faces is a retreat into protectionism,” he told lawmakers at a weekly question session in the House of Commons dominated by the economic gloom.
“It’s all the more reason why first of all we should sign the Doha agreement… and secondly we should make sure that every country is analysed for what it is doing by the World Trade Organization to prevent protectionism.
“It also is absolutely clear that we should agree as a world on a monetary and fiscal stimulus that will take the world out of depression,” added the British leader, who more usually uses the words recession or slowdown.
But a short time later Brown’s Downing Street office said it had been a slip of the tongue.
“It wasn’t deliberate, it’s not what he thinks,” a spokesman told AFP.
On December 12, Brown caused uproar by claiming to have “saved the world” — again at his weekly parliamentary grilling.
Brown — who has rejected humorous comparisons with cartoon superhero Flash Gordon — was replying to taunts on his handling of the economic crisis from opposition Conservative leader David Cameron.
The main focus of the G20 summit in the British capital on April 2 will be on reforming international finance rules in the wake of the worst crisis since the 1930s Great Depression.
The G20, currently chaired by Britain and including emerging giants such as China and India, account for around 90 percent of global economic output, 80 percent of world trade and two-thirds of the world’s population.
The group’s leaders last met in Washington in November but the London summit will be the first under the new US administration of President Barack Obama.
On the WTO talks, Brown said there were a few main points left to decide — a safeguard clause in case of a surge of imports into any poor country and negotiations on “sectoral issues.”
The United States and India were key to resolving these issues, he said, adding that he had detected progress from former US president George W. Bush and India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh before Christmas.
“It is now up to President Obama and the Indian prime minister to say that they can now accept the terms of this agreement. If that were to be so, then we would have a conclusion of this first round of the Doha negotiation.”