Davos, Jan 26: US President Donald Trump on Friday said he would maintain his policy of putting “America First” in international trade but acknowledged that it was not a policy of isolationism as he touted his economic agenda to the world’s business and political elite.
His speech was the most anticipated event of the Davos forum after he won the election by railing against “globalism” and free trade, pledges that rattled leaders around the world.
Trump used parts of his speech at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Swiss alpine resort of Davos to assuage such fears.
“As President of the US I will always put America first,” he said. “But America first does not mean America alone. When the US grows, so does the world.”
Trump launched a fierce attack on “predatory” trade practices, warning trading partners here that Washington will not tolerate unfair practices.
He also took a veiled swipe at China for its alleged theft of intellectual property and practice of forcing US 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.”
He said these “predatory practices were distorting markets and the US will no longer turn a blind eye”.
The US leader told the world leaders in his address that “America is open for business and is competitive again”.
“The world is witnessing the resurgence of a strong and prosperous America … There has never been a better time to hire, to build, to invest and to grow in the United States. America is open for business,” he said.
While Trump is viewed as an outsider at Davos, the WEF host organization rolled out the red carpet to make sure the President felt honoured and welcomed.
A Swiss band wearing military-style blue and red uniforms played music as Trump walked on stage.
During an impromptu question-and-answer session after the speech, WEF 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”.
During his speech, Trump sought to keep the focus on the economy.
As he was talking, the figures for US economic growth were released, showing growth of 2.6 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year — but it falls short of the President’s 3 per cent target for that period.
The President said 2.4 million jobs have been created since he was elected in November 2016 “and that number is going up substantially,” citing companies like Apple that have pledged to move jobs to the US.
He also said he was open to negotiating multilateral trade agreements, including with members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact that Trump pulled out of last year.