President Donald Trump delivers the opening remarks at the World Economic Forum, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, in Davos. (Photo: AP)
President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he’s led a “spectacular” turnaround of the US economy and urged the world to invest in America, but had less to say about climate change issues that are a focus of this year’s gathering of top business and political leaders in the Swiss Alps.
Trump kept to his speech script and did not mention the historic impeachment trial that was set to reconvene in the US Senate in Washington later Tuesday. But he couldn’t resist commenting when asked about the trial by the hordes of reporters covering the forum in Davos.
“It’s disgraceful,” Trump said of the proceedings.
Trump’s two-day visit is a test of his ability to balance his anger over being impeached with a desire to project leadership on the world stage. His speech amounted to an election-year pitch to all those he referred to as “hardworking, ordinary citizens” of the US who “felt neglected, betrayed, forgotten.”
Trump reminded the audience that when he spoke here in 2018 “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.
American economist Kenneth Rogoff took issue with Trump’s comments, saying some of Trump’s claims about the strength of the US economy are true. But Rogoff noted that the economy wasn’t doing badly when Trump took office. “It’s been a good 10 years and his three years probably better than expected,” Rogoff said, adding that he thought Trump was careful to keep his comments about climate change to a minimum to avoid getting booed.
Climate issues are a main theme at the 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.
Trump’s lone reference to climate issues in his speech was when he announced the US would join a World Economic Forum initiative to plant 1 trillion trees worldwide. Afterward, in an apparent reference to those who warn about climate change, Trump said the world must “reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse.”
Earth just finished its hottest decade on record with the five last years as the five hottest years on record, according to US and other science agencies. Scientists repeatedly point to more extreme weather as a problem worsened by human-caused climate change. There have been 44 weather and climate disasters in the United States that caused at least $1 billion in damage since 2017, killing 3,569 people, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Late last year, the Trump administration began pulling the US out of the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement under which nearly 200 nations set 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 US economy.
“In America, we understand what the pessimists refuse to see: that a growing and vibrant market economy focused on the future lifts the human spirit and excites creativity strong enough to overcome any challenge,” Trump said.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has been criticized by Trump, said world and business leaders aren’t taking the threat of global warming seriously.
“Planting trees is good of course but it’s nowhere near enough,” Thunberg said.
Trump’s participation at the forum provided another conspicuous split-screen moment in his presidency. Before entering the hall to deliver his speech, Trump called the trial “disgraceful” and part of “the witch hunt that’s been going on for years.”
Asked whether Trump would tune in to the impeachment trial, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in an email that Trump has a “full day” in Davos “but will be briefed by staff periodically.”
Trump spent nearly all of his approximately 30-minute speech describing US economic gains 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 US 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.
Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz criticized Trump for failing to address the climate emergency beyond a commitment that the US will join the trillion trees initiative.
“He managed to say absolutely zero on climate change,” Stiglitz said. “Meanwhile we’re going to roast.”
Trump’s appearance at the forum ends Wednesday when he travels back to a Washington that’s 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.
Trump met Tuesday with the forum’s founder and the new European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, the first woman to hold the position. Trump zeroed in on her reputation as a tough negotiator, saying that was “bad news for us.”
Trump said he wants to make a trade agreement between the US and European Union and has threatened to apply tariffs to their auto imports if that doesn’t happen.
“I f we’re unable to make a deal, we will have to do something, because we’ve been treated very badly as a country for many, many years on trade,” he said.
“They know they have to do something and if they’re fair we’re not going to have a problem,” he said.
During a meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, Trump suggested he would not travel to Pakistan when he makes his first visit to India this year.
“We’re visiting right now so we won’t really have to” go to Pakistan, Trump said.