Trump tells Davos: 'America First' does not mean 'America alone'

Trump tells Davos: 'America First' does not mean 'America alone'
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By Alasdair SandfordSallyann Nicholls, Reuters
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The president declared the US as 'open for business' and pledged a clampdown on unfair trade in a speech to the global elite in the Swiss ski resort.


US President Donald Trump has given his first speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, declaring that "America First" did not mean "America alone" as he took his familiar message first-hand to the world's elite.

It was a relatively short, measured address to political and business leaders, devoid of the fiery rhetoric he uses before his supporters. Painting a rosy picture of the US economy, Trump declared the US as “open for business” and encouraged investment in the country.

His speech in the Swiss ski resort did contain a warning on trade: the US would "no longer turn a blind eye" to what he described as unfair practices.

The president made no mention of the environment or climate change, both key themes on the forum's agenda.

This was the first time a sitting American president had addressed the event in 18 years, and Trump's appearance prompted a frenzy of anticipation and protest.

Clampdown on 'unfair' trade

The president immediately launched into a triumphant appraisal of the US economy's boisterous performance. "After years of stagnation, the United States is once again experiencing strong economic growth," he said. "The world is witnessing the resurgence of a strong and prosperous America."

On his flagship slogan, Trump was unrepentant in the face of accusations of protectionism, saying he expected other leaders to promote the same policy on behalf of their own countries.

"'America First' does not mean 'America alone'. When the United States grows, so does the world," he said.

Then followed an attack on unidentified countries for allegedly unfair trade practices - and a pledge that the US would "no longer turn a blind eye".

"Only by insisting on fair and reciprocal trade can we create a system that works not just for the United States but for all nations," the president went on. "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."

He singled out "massive intellectual property theft" and countries which provided state aid to industry.

Despite his opposition to multilateral trade agreements, Trump said the US would consider bilateral accords that were "mutually beneficial" - including with countries that have signed up to a Trans-Pacific trade agreement from which he has withdrawn.

Key points from Trump's speech

  • Trump says he is here today to represent the interests of the American people
  • 2.4 million jobs have been created since his election. The world is witnessing the resurgence of a strong and prosperous America
  • "America is open for business and we are competitive once again". Regulation is "stealth taxation".
  • "'America First' does not mean "America Alone'... We support free trade but it needs to be fair and it needs to be reciprocal."
  • US will no longer turn a blind eye to unfair trade practices. Predatory behaviours are distorting markets. "We cannot have free and open trade if some countries exploit the system at the expense of others."
  • US is prepared to negotiate mutually beneficial bilateral trade pacts with all countries, including TPP countries
  • Trump asks friends and allies to invest in own defences and meet financial obligations. He calls for "maximum pressure to de-nuke the Korean peninsula" and on partners to block Iran's path to nuclear weapons
  • US committed to ensuring Afghanistan never again becomes a haven for terrorists. Almost 100% of land taken by ISIL has been taken back, but the fight against Islamist militants is not over
  • On migration, America needs a new "merit-based system"

Praise, boos and hisses

The US president took questions at the end of his speech - and the improvised replies quickly contained some familiar jibes, absent from his scripted delivery.

He claimed that had the Democrats won the election, the stock market would have fallen by close to 50 percent, not risen.

There were some boos and hisses from the floor when he described the media as "nasty", "mean", "vicious" and "fake".

While Donald Trump was praising the performance of the US economy, new GDP figures showed growth slowed in the fourth quarter of 2017, down to 2.6 percent from 3.2 percent in the third quarter.

Despite the "open for business" message, the Trump administration has passed measures criticised as protectionist. Before his trip to Davos 30 percent tariffs were imposed on imported solar panels, among the first unilateral trade restrictions to be made.

US officials have tried to play down comments by the US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who said the United States benefited from a lower dollar which would make its exports cheaper. Amid the protests the US currency tumbled, and the remarks were slammed by the European Central Bank and others who believe they violate unwritten rules to keep trade balanced.


Mnuchin was quoted afterwards as describing Trump's speech as "fabulous" and "great". But in contrast to the buzz of anticipation preceding his appearance, the atmosphere among delegates once it was over was said to be muted.

You can watch Donald Trump's appearance at Davos in the video player, below.

The speech came hours after Donald Trump dismissed a New York Times story claiming he ordered Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s firing last June. The order was reportedly refused at the time.

The US president told reporters in Davos that the story, published on Friday, was “fake news”.

Mueller is currently leading an investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.


Trump has also issued a tentative apology on British TV after he shared Islamophobic posts on social media in November. The posts were orginally published by far-right group Britain First.

The president sat with ITV presenter Piers Morgan when he addressed the controversy. The interview is due to air on Sunday night (January 28).

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