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'America first does not mean America alone,' Trump tells sceptical audience in Davos

© Fabrice Coffrini, AFP | US President Donald Trump delivers a speech during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 26, 2018.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2018-01-26

Declaring that America is open for business under his leadership, President Donald Trump told a gathering of political and business elites on Friday that the economic growth taking place in the US also benefits the rest of the world.

Trump told the World Economic Forum in Davos that American prosperity has created countless jobs around the world, but stressed that his priority would always remain protecting his nation's own interests.

“As president of the United States, I will always put American first just as the leaders of other countries should put their countries first,” said Trump.

But the president tried to strike a balance, tempering his nationalist agenda with reassurances to the globalist and cooperation-minded audience that his protectionist vision “does not mean America alone”.

“When the United States grows, so does the world,” Trump said. “American prosperity has created countless jobs around the globe and the drive for excellence, creativity and innovation in the United States has led to important discoveries that help people everywhere live more prosperous and healthier lives.”

As Forum chairman Klaus Schwab introduced Trump, he drew some hisses when he said that the president could be subject to “misconceptions and biased interpretations.” When Trump took the stage, he received modest applause but some people kept their hands at their sides. The crowd was largely subdued as the president spoke but there were boos when Trump took a swipe at the media.

'Any international meeting that is not a disaster is a success'

Once more shadowed by revelations back home about the ongoing Russia probe, Trump showcased the country’s roaring economy and made a pitch to the world leaders that “America is open for business and we are competitive once again.”

The gathering had viewed Trump with scepticism, given his “America First” message, but the White House has insisted that his protectionist policies and international cooperation can go hand-in-hand.

Enhanced immigration policies

Trump hit some of the same nationalist notes that have become hallmarks of his other speeches to international gatherings, calling for secure borders, stricter immigration policies and enhanced national sovereignty, saying that each nation should put its own economic interests ahead of the larger multi-national partnerships.

“We support free trade but it needs to be fair and it needs to be reciprocal,” said Trump, who has long expressed a preference for one-to-one national trade deals rather than regional ones. But he also left the door open to re-entering the Trans Pacific Partnership, a sweeping trade deal from which he withdrew a year ago, saying that “perhaps” the United States could resume negotiations with many of the participating countries at once.

As if making a salesman’s pitch, Trump repeatedly boasted about the US economy and pushed for international cooperation combatting terrorism. But he left unaddressed a number of concerns for the global community, including climate change, the fate of refugees and diplomatic solutions for a number of the world’s hotspots, including the Middle East.

Kristian Jensen, Denmark’s finance minister, provided some of the first international feedback, writing on Twitter “Honestly speaking, a rather ordinary speech from @realDonaldTrump. We didn’t need a sale speech for America but a vision for a renewed cooperation about growth.”

While interest in the president’s remarks has been keen, the moment was shadowed by a report in The New York Times that he had ordered the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller last June, but backed off after White House lawyer Don McGahn threatened to resign.

Fake news

Asked about the report as he entered the conference center, Trump said: “Fake news, folks. Fake news. Typical New York Times fake stories.”

Trump later drew boos from the audience at the summit when he attacked the media, branding them “vicious” and accusing them of reporting “fake” news.

“It wasn’t until I became a politician that I realised how nasty, how mean, how vicious and how fake the press can be,” Trump said, drawing boos from the hall where hundreds of delegates were seated.

The first sitting president to attend Davos since Bill Clinton in 2000, Trump was expected to use his speech to tout his economic agenda and argue America is open for business.

Trump used his time at the summit to meet with world leaders, attend a reception in his honor and host business executives at a dinner. On Friday he declared that his visit had been a success, adding: “We have a tremendous crowd and a crowd like they’ve never had before.”

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

Date created : 2018-01-26

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