Trump touts economy at Davos
President Trump on Friday declared “America is open for business” during a speech in Davos, Switzerland, designed to tout his economic agenda to the world’s business and political elite.
Trump’s speech was the most anticipated event of the Davos forum after he won election by railing against “globalism” and free trade, statements that rattled leaders around the world.
Trump used parts of his speech at the World Economic Forum to assuage such fears.
“As president of the United States I will always put America first,” the president said. “But America first does not mean America alone. When the United States grows, so does the world.”
The crowd sat mostly silent as a more subdued Trump spoke and offered a smattering of applause when he finished his speech.
While Trump is viewed as an outsider at Davos, the World Economic Forum host organization rolled out the red carpet to make sure the president felt honored and welcomed.
A Swiss band wearing military-style blue and red uniforms played music as Trump walked on stage.
During an impromptu Q&A session after the speech, World Economic Forum founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab told Trump “I’m aware that your strong leadership is open to misinterpretation and biased interpretations.”
That remark drew boos from the audience, and there were also boos when Trump criticized “fake news.”
Trump’s address was overshadowed by the bombshell revelation that he tried to fire Robert Mueller last summer as special counsel leading the Russia investigation. The president called the reports “fake news” before he spoke to the Davos crowd.
During his speech, Trump sought to keep the focus on the economy.
New economic statistics released shortly after Trump’s speech showed the U.S. economy grew at a slower-than-expected 2.6 percent rate in the fourth quarter, partly because of a drag from trade.
That stopped a streak of quarters with 3 percent growth, though strong corporate demand and rising household sales also suggested a strong underlying economy.
Trump cited his overhaul of the nation’s tax code and efforts to cut regulations as examples of how his policies have energized the U.S. economy.
“America is open for business and we are competitive once again,” Trump said.
The president said 2.4 million jobs have been created since he was elected in November 2016 “and that number is going up very, very substantially,” citing companies like Apple that have pledged to move jobs to the U.S. because of the new tax law.
Trump said he wants to “negotiate mutually beneficial, bilateral trade agreements” with other countries — a shift away from sweeping, multi-national deals the U.S. has pursued in the past.
He also took a veiled swipe at China for its alleged theft of intellectual property and practice of forcing U.S. companies to turn over their intellectual property to do business there.
“We cannot have free and open trade if some countries exploit the system at the expense of others,” he said. “We support free trade, but it needs to be fair and it needs to be reciprocal.”
But the president also said he was open to negotiating multilateral trade agreements, including with members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact that Trump pulled out of last year.
“We have agreements with several of them already,” Trump said. “We would consider negotiating with the rest, either individually, or perhaps as a group, if it is in the interests of all.”
Trump’s openness to striking a deal with TPP countries has been one of the most surprising developments of his Davos trip, and one that could cause heartburn among his core supporters.
One of Trump’s first actions as president was to sign an executive action that extracted the U.S. from the trade pact, a move he said at the time was a “great thing for the American worker.”
The president said for the first time that he would consider re-entering the agreement.
“I would do TPP if we were able to make a substantially better deal,” Trump told CNBC on Thursday.
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