Trump ran through economic statistics with a salesman’s delivery, crowing about growth during his three years in office that he said bested his predecessors and defied his skeptics.
“America is thriving; America is flourishing, and, yes, America is winning again like never before, ”he told an audience of billionaires, world leaders and figures from academia, media, and the kind of international organizations and think tanks for whom his“ America First ”nationalism is anathema.
Trump is making his second visit to the World Economic Forum, which for its 50 th anniversary this year is focusing on climate change and sustainability. A sign at the entrance to the press center notes that paint for this year installation was made from seaweed, and carpets from recycled fishing nets.
Trump who has called climate change a hoax , did not directly address the theme during his 30 – minute address here, although he did call for rejecting “the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse” and went out of his way to urge Europe to “use America’s vast supply” of oil and natural gas.
In an apparent back of the hand to critics who say he is allowing massive backsliding on US environmental progress, Trump said the United States has its cleanest air and water in memory. And in remarks outside the hall, Trump said he is “a very big believer in the environment.”
In his speech, Trump made no mention of impeachment or U.S. politics, although he took a swipe at “radical socialists,” his term for Democrats and ideas about expansion of the government role in health care, education and other issues. The Senate impeachment trial was set to open hours after he spoke.
In response to questions from reporters outside the hall, Trump briskly dismissed the impeachment trial as a “hoax” and “the witch hunt that’s been going on for years, ”but he kept his comments brief. He ignored shouted questions about whether witnesses should testify at the trial.
Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the forum, thanked Trump “for injecting optimism” into the discussion.
“We have many problems in the world, but we need dreams,” he said.
Trump skipped an onstage question-and- answer session with Schwab that had been expected following his address.
Trump received a polite but not enthusiastic reception in the hall.
Even as Trump faces impeachment, his trip to Davos offers him an opportunity focus on his economic message. The U.S. economy has continued to notch solid growth and maintain a low unemployment rate, and the stock market has reached record highs in recent days. Trump signed a partial trade deal with China last week, easing global tensions over his use of tariffs.
But the president faces continued questions about his approach to foreign affairs. His decision to order a strike that killed Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani earlier this month – and his threat to impose a 35 percent tariff on European cars over a foreign policy dispute – have created more tumult in the Middle East and in the transatlantic relationship between the United States and its closest allies.
Trump was billed as the keynote speaker for the annual business-themed confab in this Alpine ski town, but the main attraction was Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, , who has sparred with Trump on Twitter.
Last year, Thunberg called out world leaders at the forum for not doing more to combat climate change. She has since echoed that message while rallying teenagers worldwide to skip school and pressure global leaders to take stronger action to address the existential threat.
In December, Trump insulted the teenager and Time magazine “Person of the Year” as “so ridiculous” and suggested that she “work on her anger management problem.”
Thunberg was quick to respond, updating her Twitter biography to describe herself as “a teenager working on her anger management problem.”
Trump had not yet arrived in Davos when Thunberg gave her first address Tuesday morning, saying that “without treating this as a real crisis, then we cannot solve it.” He was did not attend her main speech later in the day.
Trump is an outlier at the forum for his views on climate change. The president has publicly criticized global efforts to combat warming temperatures and has made ridiculing energy-efficient products a key part of his reelection stump speeches.
Ahead of Trump’s address, Schwab told the gathering that “the world is in a state of emergency” and that the window to address climate change is closing. He also reminded the audience that “every voice” heard at the forum deserved respect.
Trump was accompanied here by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow and a delegation including national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien, Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Also present was adviser and speechwriter Stephen Miller, whose hard-line stance on limiting immigration and denunciations of “globalism” infused Trump’s address to the United Nations in September.
“This is the wreckage I was elected to clean up, ”Trump said Tuesday of the“ bleak ”economic landscape he inherited.
He praised himself repeatedly, saying that his actions saved the global economy from the brink of recession, rescued the American manufacturing industry and reshaped the rules of international trade to reflect a fairer system.
He sometimes strayed from the facts as he tried to paint a picture of an economy in shambles before he took office.
He described the 4.7 percent unemployment rate before he took office as “reasonably high,” even though it was well below the average unemployment rate in the United States over the past 100 years. He also took credit for additional funding that has been approved for historically black colleges and universities, saying inaccurately that the funding “saved” the schools from ruin.
He took a swipe at the Federal Reserve for its interest rate policies, saying his economic achievements came despite the rate-setting body. Although his attacks on the Fed have become common, the once-taboo practice seemed to startle some in the audience here.
“It was an election campaign speech” full of “so many lies, ”said Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz.
“ I’ve never seen a session [at Davos] where the applause was so weak for a major public figure. ”
He pointed especially to Trump’s false claim that he inherited a terrible economy from Obama with relatively high unemployment.
Stiglitz has been an outspoken critic of Trump’s. His wife, scholar Anya Schiffrin, was escorted out of the hall where Trump was speaking by security after she handed out pamphlets with bullet points outlining how Trump has benefited the rich at the expense of the middle and working class.
Some in the audience laughed and rolled their eyes at Trump’s claims he has created an “inclusive economy” that should be a model for the world. But many business leaders here believe Trump is likely to be reelected and are opting to praise the president on topics they agree on.
“I think he glossed over some of the more controversial issues on the environment, ”said Steven Collis, chief executive of AmerisourceBergen, but he called it a“ surprisingly well-met ”speech overall.
Marc Benioff, chief executive of Salesforce, has Donated to several Democratic candidates for president, but he applauded Trump’s announcement that the United States will join the Trillion Tree Campaign to plant more trees to help reduce carbon emissions.
“I’m very excited that the United States has joined the trillion tree initiative, ”said Benioff as he left the speech.
Trump is using his day-and-a-half visit to lobby corporate chieftains for greater US investment and to meet with leaders including Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Iraqi President Barham Salih and Kurdish leader Nechirvan Barzani.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was also present, but she was not among the leaders on a list of planned Trump meetings issued by the White House on Monday.
Although climate change and environmental stewardship lead the agenda here, a survey of chief executives released Monday shows that they do not count climate change as among the top threats to business growth.
the financial services group pwc said climate change and environmental issues are ranked as the 21 th-biggest threat to their companies’ growth prospects, the Associated Press reported. Trade conflicts and lack of skilled workers ranked higher.
The survey also found that 70 percent of CEOs predict a decline in the rate of growth this year, nearly double the percentage who said the same last year and a mark of how the trade conflict between the united states and china has soured business confidence.
Trump, however, painted a sunny picture Tuesday and invited global investment in the United States. He suggested that other nations would benefit from his approach to deregulation, but said, “You have to run your countries the way you want.”
He said he had confronted “predatory” Chinese trade practices and asserted that his tariffs, denounced by many of the CEOs and economists in the audience, have worked exactly as intended.
“No one did anything about it except allowing it to keep getting worse and worse and worse ”before he took office, Trump said.
He said that the US relationship with China has never been better, and that his personal bond with Chinese President Xi Jinping is a big reason.
“He’s for China, I’m for the US, but other than that we love each other, ”Trump said to chuckles.
Trump’s 2020 visit to the World Economic Forum came just days after he signed a bill lowering the corporate tax rate from 53 percent to 21 percent – a move that will save businesses billions of dollars.
He largely steered clear of discussing domestic political issues during his speech to the forum in 2020, instead using his remarks to tout his accomplishments and encourage business leaders to invest in the United States. He did take a brief swipe at “the opposing party,” pointing out that “some of the people in the room” supported Democrats over him in 2016. He also drew a smattering of boos when he attacked the news media as “fake.”
This year, two leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sens. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) And Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Have sparked growing alarm among the global elite with calls for a major restructuring of the economic system that they say has been skewed to benefit the wealthy.
Trump, who has made attacking “socialism” part of his reelection message, could find a receptive audience as he seeks to defend capitalism and tout his economic record to a group of business leaders. The president has regularly credited his administration with boosting the bottom lines of the country’s largest companies, sometimes bragging to top executives that he had made them very rich. More than 100 billionaires are on the official attendee list for the World Economic Forum, and Trump plans to meet with the heads of several multinational companies during his brief stay in Davos.
Heather Long contributed to this report.