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Trump Lauds U.S. Economy as He Opens World Economic Forum -- 2nd Update

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01/21/2020 | 08:34am EST

By Andrew Restuccia

DAVOS, Switzerland -- President Trump touted what he described as a "blue-collar boom" transforming the U.S. economy and hailed his trade agreement with China in a speech to global business and government leaders, hours before his impeachment trial was set to begin.

In a 30-minute, campaign-style address aimed less at the audience gathered at the World Economic Forum in this Swiss mountain resort, and more at the 100 Senators weighing his future, Mr. Trump ticked off a list of accomplishments from low unemployment to increases in foreign investment.

"The American dream is back, bigger, better and stronger than ever before," Mr. Trump said. "No one is benefiting more than American's middle class."

The president also said it was time for policy makers and executives to stop doubting his America-first agenda and his willingness to impose trade tariffs, which he said were clearly successful. "The time for skepticism is over," he said.

Mr. Trump spoke before a crowd of several hundred people, who largely remained silent during his remarks before applauding politely when he wrapped up.

Afterward, Axel Weber, chairman of Swiss bank UBS Group AG, said Mr. Trump's speech "was a typical sales pitch of the CEO in Davos overselling the company's achievements and underreporting on some of the risks that are there."

David McKay, the chief executive of Royal Bank of Canada, said that, based on his meetings in Davos so far, business leaders shared Mr. Trump's optimism. "There's a general positivity about economic opportunity in the U.S.," Mr. McKay said.

Tuesday was Mr. Trump's second appearance at the summit as president. In 2018, he sought to reassure world leaders and business executives that there was a place for global cooperation in his nationalist worldview. "'America First' does not mean America alone," he said at the time.

His speech at the summit coincides with the first day of a trial in the U.S. Senate to determine whether he should be removed from office. In a legal filing Monday, Mr. Trump's legal team urged the Senate to swiftly reject the articles of impeachment, calling the case frivolous and dangerous.

Mr. Trump's remarks focused on the vibrancy of the American economy and the benefits he said he has delivered for people left behind in earlier booms, emphasizing employment gains by people without college degrees, African-Americans and military veterans.

The president addressed the issue of inequality, saying that wages for low-income Americans have been growing faster than those of the richest. "For the first time in decades, we're not only concentrating wealth in the hands of a few."

On trade, Mr. Trump said the new agreement with Canada and Mexico and last week's signing of an early-stage deal with China "represent a new model of trade for the 21st century." He said the pact with China addressed the longstanding problems of "China's predatory practices."

He also highlighted trade agreements with Japan and South Korea and said his administration looks forward "to negotiating a tremendous new deal with the U.K." The U.K. is set to split with the European Union on Jan. 31 and is seeking to strike new trade agreements with other countries.

Mr. Trump arrived in Davos facing continued criticism from U.S. allies, particularly on trade. The president has infuriated officials in Europe with threats to impose tariffs on European cars, and they continue to bristle at tariffs Mr. Trump imposed on steel and aluminum earlier in his presidency.

But, despite the tensions, there were early signs of progress this week. The U.S. and France reached a tentative truce in their standoff over the country's plan to tax tech companies.

Following a Sunday phone call between the leaders of the two countries, French President Emmanuel Macron agreed to postpone until the end of 2020 a tax that France levied on big tech companies last year. In return, the U.S. will postpone retaliatory tariffs this year, officials said.

--Jenny Strasburg and Parmy Olson contributed to this article.

Write to Andrew Restuccia at Andrew.Restuccia@wsj.com

Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
LME ALUMINIUM CASH 0.06% 1687 End-of-day quote.-4.80%
ROYAL BANK OF CANADA 0.22% 108 Delayed Quote.5.11%
UBS GROUP -1.57% 12.84 Delayed Quote.6.54%
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