Trump addressed the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, hours before his historic impeachment trial was to reconvene in the U.S. Senate in Washington. The two-day visit will test Trump's ability to balance his anger over being impeached with a desire to project leadership on the world stage.
He reminded the audience that when he spoke here two years ago, early in his presidency, “I told you that we had launched the great American comeback." “Today I’m proud to declare the United States is in the midst of an economic boom, the likes of which the world has never seen before,” the president said.
Trump's participation in the annual gathering of political and business elites in the Alpine ski resort will provide another conspicuous split-screen moment in his presidency. Asked about the impeachment trial before entering the hall to deliver his speech, Trump called it “disgraceful” and part of “the witch hunt that's been going on for years."
“But we look forward to being here,” he said. Climate issues are a main theme at this year's forum and the phrase “Act on Climate” was written in the snow at the landing zone where Trump's Marine One helicopter set down in Davos.
Late last year, the Trump administration began pulling the U.S. out of the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement signed by nearly 200 nations. Under the deal, each country sets goals to curb emissions of heat-trapping gasses that lead to climate change. Trump has called the Paris accord an unfair economic burden to the U.S. economy.
In an apparent nod to concerns about climate change, Trump announced that the U.S. will join the economic forum's initiative to plant 1 trillion trees across the globe. The effort aims to mobilize an online community to boost reforestation and grow trees that can help gobble up excess carbon dioxide — often caused by the burning of fossil fuels. The trees initiative aims to boost spending on reforestation by business, governments and philanthropists, according to its web site 1t.org.
Trump said the U.S. is among countries with the cleanest water and air on earth, oft-stated claims by the president that are contradicted by the statistics. After decades of improvement, progress in U.S. air quality has stalled and, over the past two years, America had more polluted air days than just a few years earlier, according to an Associated Press analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data.
Trump's claims about water are true in that the U.S. is tied with nine other countries as having the cleanest drinking water, according to Yale University's global Environmental Performance Index. Trump spent much more of his approximately 30-minute speech talking about how the U.S. economy has performed under his leadership.
“America is thriving. America is flourishing and yes, America is winning again like never before,” Trump said before talking about a newly signed trade deal with China and a pending trade agreement with Mexico and Canada. He also spoke of record low unemployment, stock market gains and millions of people removed from the welfare rolls.
Trump's second appearance at the conference ends Wednesday when he travels back to a Washington that is consumed by the impeachment trial. The Democratic-controlled House impeached the Republican president last month for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after it was revealed that he had pressed Ukraine’s president to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat and a Trump political rival. Trump withheld foreign aid that Congress had approved for the Eastern European nation and dangled the prospect of an Oval Office meeting as leverage.
Trump denies any wrongdoing and argues that Democrats want to remove him from office because they know they can’t deny him reelection in November. Trump would be forced to leave office if convicted, but the Republican-controlled Senate is expected to acquit him.
The White House has not named any of the business leaders Trump is set to meet with. But he is scheduled to hold talks Tuesday and Wednesday with the leaders of Iraq, Pakistan, Switzerland and Iraq's self-governing Kurdish region, as well as the forum's founder, the White House said.
Trump also will have his first meeting with the new European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, the first woman to hold the position. That meeting could be the most significant, said analyst Matt Goodman, given Trump’s many disagreements with Europe over tax and trade policy, like a new digital levy by the French that will force American tech giants such as Amazon and Google to pay up.
“She's new and she's formidable,” said Goodman, who studies international economic policy as a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. He predicted a difficult year ahead for U.S.-EU relations.
Trump has smarted over the French tax, and his administration has announced plans to impose retaliatory tariffs of up to 100% on cheese, wine, lipstick and other French imports. France has threatened to fight back.
But after speaking to Trump on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that they had a “great discussion” about the digital tax and “will work together on a good agreement to avoid tariff escalation.” Trump later retweeted Macron, adding the word: ”Excellent!"
The U.S. has also threatened to impose retaliatory duties on $7.5 billion worth of European airplanes, cheese, wine and other goods in a separate dispute over subsidies for Airbus, a competitor to Chicago-based Boeing Co.
Trump also has sought to wring trade concessions from the EU by threatening tariffs on German autos, including BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
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