Trump in Davos: What you missed from his speech and the summit
On Friday, a protectionist President addressed some of of globalization's fiercest champions at a gathering of the world's business elite. Here's what he said and what Canada's Prime Minister was up to in Davos earlier this week
- A real-estate tycoon turned U.S. president addressed some of the world’s richest people in Davos, Switzerland, on Friday, telling them “now is the perfect time to bring your business, your jobs and your investments to the United States.”
- Mr. Trump’s visit to the World Economic Forum, an annual haunt of some of the world’s biggest advocates for globalization, made for an unusual contrast. In his keynote speech, he defended his “America First” trade policies, accusing other countries of distorting markets with practices the U.S. considered unfair. “We cannot have free and open trade if some countries exploit the system at the expense of others.”
- His speech did not mention one of the trade deals that he’s often accused of being unfair to U.S. interests: the North American free-trade agreement between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, which is in its sixth round of renegotiation talks in Montreal this week. He did mention the recently revived Trans-Pacific Partnership between Canada and 10 other nations, suggesting the U.S. would be open to bilateral deals with TPP countries “if it is in the interests of all.”
- Audience response to the speech was muted, with polite applause when it ended. Mr. Trump got some boos when, in an on-stage conversation with forum chairman Klaus Schwab, he said it wasn’t until he became a politician that he realized “how nasty, how mean, how vicious and how fake the press can be.”
- One thing Mr. Trump didn’t do in Davos was meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who returned to Canada on Thursday after three days at the summit. Mr. Trudeau defended his decision not to talk with Mr. Trump or the U.S. cabinet members who came to Switzerland: “People know that I have many opportunities to exchange on a regular basis with the President. We talk on the phone.”
What's a Davos?
The summit: The World Economic Forum is a gathering in Davos, Switzerland, where the world's business and political elite gather to set the agenda for global commerce. The forum, an annual event since 1971, is the brainchild of German economist Klaus Schwab, who originally called it the European Management Forum. The theme of this year's event, which runs from Jan. 23-26, is "Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World." In an interview with Associated Press, Mr. Schwab said he hoped the U.S. President's planned visit to Davos would "provide him even better with a global perspective," and said critics of the U.S. leader should hear him out. "Let's not forget he is the democratically elected president of the most powerful nation in the world."
Nation by nation: North America and Western Europe have a commanding presence at Davos, as far as the number of delegates is concerned. Mr. Trump's scheduled attendance is a rarity: The only other sitting U.S. president to go to the World Economic Forum was Bill Clinton in 2000.
Why it matters: The past few years have seen major backlashes against globalization, from the economic protectionism of Brexit and "America First" to anti-immigration policies in Europe and North America. Conflicts between globalization's champions and its critics, on both left and right, have played out in dramatic fashion at recent Davos summits. Last year, attendees heard an unlikely speech from Chinese President Xi Jinping, leader of a nominally communist country, defending free trade and comparing protectionism to "locking oneself in a dark room."
'America First', but not alone: Mr. Trump's Friday speech reiterated past talking points that "America First" trade and economic policies benefit the rest of the world too. "America first does not mean America alone. When the United States grows, so does the world," Mr. Trump said. "We cannot have free and open trade if some countries exploit the system at the expense of others. We support free trade, but it needs to be fair, and it needs to be reciprocal." Mr. Trump also said the U.S. was committed to bilateral trade deals, including those with members of the revived Trans-Pacific Partnership, and that the Trump administration might work out a trade deal with the TPP nations as a group "if it is in the interests of all."
Israel: The President's Thursday agenda included a sit-down with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who praised Mr. Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv. At their meeting, Mr. Trump threatened the Palestinians – who claim East Jerusalem as their future capital – with holding back aid unless they resume peace talks with Israel, which an aide to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said was "unacceptable."
Africa: Earlier Friday, Mr. Trump tried to mend fences with African leaders, whom he allegedly insulted this month in vulgar remarks at a White House meeting on immigration policy. Mr. Trump, who still denies using vulgar language, met in Davos with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who is beginning a one-year term as head of the African Union. Mr. Kagame said afterward that they had "good discussions" on economic and trade issues.
Easing fears about NAFTA: Mr. Trudeau told the Davos audience on Tuesday that Canada is working hard to make sure "our neighbour to the south" realizes that protecting NAFTA is in everyone's best interests. In a private round table on Wednesday, Mr. Trudeau told business leaders that he remains confident negotiators can update NAFTA and boost continental trade, and said afterward that the roundtable had a "great discussion." He wrapped up his Davos visit without meeting Mr. Trump.
Hyping up the TPP: Mr. Trudeau's trip coincided with a major breakthrough on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an 11-nation trade pact that was nearly killed last year when Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from it. At high-level talks in Tokyo on Tuesday, the countries agreed to new language for the deal, which they hoped to approve by March. In his Tuesday speech, Mr. Trudeau praised the TPP as "the right deal" for Canada. But back home, industry reaction to the revived TPP was mixed: Auto workers' unions decried the deal because it opens manufacturers up to low-cost competition and potential job losses; dairy farmers denounced it because it gives tariff-free access to Canada's protected market; but the group representing Canadian pig farmers hailed the pact for giving them more access abroad.
Talking the talk on gender equality: Mentioning the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns against sexual harassment, the Prime Minister spoke on Tuesday about the need to improve conditions for women in the workplace and acknowledge gender, race and other factors business practices for hiring, promotion and retention. On his last day in Davos, Mr. Trudeau, sitting beside education advocate Malala Yousafzai, announced Canada would double its commitment to a global fund that helps educate girls in developing nations. "Canada is committed to making sure young people around the world, especially girls, get the education they deserve," he said.
Controversy in cabinet: While Mr. Trudeau was in Davos, a sexual-misconduct controversy was brewing back in Canada around his minister of sport and persons with disabilities. Late Wednesday, Alberta public servant Kristin Raworth wrote on Twitter accusing Kent Hehr of impropriety during his time in the Alberta legislature, and urged Mr. Trudeau to act by firing him: "I was told to avoid being in [an] elevator with Kent Hehr. He would make comments. He would make you feel unsafe." Mr. Trudeau said in Davos that he would speak with Mr. Hehr, and hours later, he accepted the minister's resignation. An investigation is pending by law firm Rubin Thomlinson.
The protesters' agenda
Civil-liberties groups gave Mr. Trump a chilly welcome in his Swiss Alps visit. On Thursday, activists from the Swiss group Campax hung a large banner reading "Trump not welcome!" on the side of a mountain near Sargans. While the site was far removed from the Davos resort where Mr. Trump would see it, the group said it wanted the message to reach the President, "be it during a flyby through the valley here or through his daily television consumption."
Earlier, thousands of anti-capitalist protesters marched through Zurich on Tuesday to demonstrate against Mr. Trump's arrival.
Associated Press and Globe staff, with a report from Reuters
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