Jan 21, 2020

Trump ignores impeachment, touts economy in campaign-style Davos speech

Photo: Facrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

DAVOS, SWITZERLAND — President Trump diverged sharply from the tone of this week's World Economic Forum in at least two ways during his opening session speech on Tuesday — he was exuberant about the state of the U.S. economy and dismissive of the threat from climate change.

Between the lines: Trump didn't mention impeachment in a campaign-style address in which he claimed to have launched a U.S. "economic boom the likes of which the world has never seen before."

The big picture: He also lambasted "prophets of doom" — an apparent reference to climate activists like Greta Thunberg, with whom he is sharing top billing in Davos.

  • After heralding a boom in U.S. oil and gas, Trump said the U.S. was committed to "ensuring the majesty of God's creation," but added that "now is not the time for pessimism."
  • "We must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse. They are the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers."

As expected, Trump celebrated his trade deal with Canada and Mexico as well as the "phase one" trade agreement with China.

  • He strained credulity by claiming to have clinched "the two biggest trade deals ever made" in the span of a week, insisting the economy was in a "dismal state" when he took power.
  • At the heart of his speech was a claim to have revolutionized the American economy over three years with a "blue collar boom" that was only just beginning — a message perhaps tailored more for Detroit than Davos.
  • Trump also took the opportunity to bash the Federal Reserve, which he said "has raised rates too fast and lowered them too slowly."

On China, Trump said Beijing's economic practices had been "getting worse and worse" under his predecessors but would now be reined in.

  • He added the U.S.-China relationship "went through a rough patch" but "has never, ever been better."
  • Of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump said: "He’s for China, I’m for the U.S., but other than that we love each other."

In the room: Trump entered and exited to applause, but was only applauded during the speech when he mentioned a commitment to plant one trillion trees. Attendees occasionally chuckled and shook their heads at some of his brasher pronouncements.

  • He did not take any questions.

What's next: The president's schedule in Davos includes meetings with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Iraqi President Barham Salih.

Go deeper: What's worrying the Davos crowd

Go deeper

Media coverage of Davos portrays more conference rhetoric than reality

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos via Getty Images: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP and Harold Clements/Express

Call it the hypocrisy gap. Davos has always struggled with the difference between the conference's rhetoric and its reality. This year, as climate change and talk of "stakeholder capitalism" increasingly dominate the public agenda, the gap between why delegates go and why they say they go is wider than ever.

Why it matters: Davos, once a quiet Alpine talking shop, has become a global media frenzy. Governments, corporations, and the World Economic Forum itself (slogan: "Committed to Improving the State of the World") increasingly see Davos as an opportunity to send the message that they care deeply about {insert cause here}. But that's not what keeps the plutocrats returning year after year.

Go deeperArrowJan 23, 2020

Mnuchin jabs Greta Thunberg at Davos: "Is she the chief economist?"

Photos: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin took aim Thursday at teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg during a press conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, questioning if she is even qualified to talk about economic challenges, Bloomberg reports.

"Is she the chief economist? Who is she? I'm confused ... After she goes and studies economics in college, she can come back and explain that to us."
Go deeperArrowJan 23, 2020

Deep Dive: World leaders in Davos walk the U.S.-China tightrope

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

DAVOS, Switzerland — The Trump administration is gearing up for a long-term confrontation with China, a rival viewed increasingly as an existential threat, but a week in Davos offers a stark reminder that the world is not prepared to line up behind it.

The big picture: There was a palpable sense of relief among the Davos crowd after the "phase one" trade deal reduced tensions between the U.S. and China.

Go deeperArrowJan 25, 2020 - World