Donald Trump has assailed environmental “alarmists” and economic “pessimists”, used his speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos to strike a defiant tone at an event dominated by concerns about climate change and economic slowdown.
Speaking just hours before his impeachment trial was due to begin, the US president claimed that he had turned a stagnant economy into “a roaring geyser of opportunity”. Mr Trump said he had created an inclusive and booming economy, in remarks seen in the room as an appeal to domestic voters in an election year.
Although he reiterated his criticism of the Federal Reserve, saying it had “raised rates too fast and lowered them too slowly”, Mr Trump said the US was “in the midst of an economic boom, the likes of which the world has never seen before”.
He also argued that Davos delegates should “reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of apocalypse” — a thinly-veiled attack on environmental activists such as Greta Thunberg, who on Tuesday used the event to argue that governments and business leaders are doing too little to avoid irreversible climate change.
Speaking shortly after Mr Trump, Ms Thunberg told Davos attendees that her warning last year that “our house is on fire” had achieved nothing, as global emissions of carbon dioxide continue to rise.
She mocked the leaders of governments and businesses who tell activists “don’t be so pessimistic” while offering only “empty words and promises” rather than action.
“Unlike you, my generation will not give up without a fight,” the teenage climate activist told the audience. “We are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else.”
But Mr Trump said: “This is not a time for pessimism, this is a time for optimism.”
US prosperity had come “thundering back at a record speed” since his election, he argued, showcasing his agenda of corporate tax cuts and deregulation.
His remarks came hours before the US Senate opens his impeachment trial on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, but he made little reference to the proceedings.
Instead he hailed his recent trade agreements with China, Canada and Mexico and said his relationship with China’s Xi Jinping was “extraordinary”, saying: “He’s for China, I’m for US but other than that we love each other.”
The US had pioneered “a new model of trade for the 21st century,” he argued. Phase two of its trade negotiations with China would begin “very shortly”, he said, and “our relationship with China right now has probably never been better.”
He also had warm words for Boris Johnson, saying the UK’s “wonderful new prime minister wants very much to make a deal, as they say.”
Market concerns of a new trade battle with Europe eased on Monday, after French president Emmanuel Macron signalled a breakthrough in talks to resolve a tax clash with Washington which had risked new US tariffs on French goods and could have spilled over into a broader transatlantic trade war.
Mr Macron tweeted on Monday that he had a “great discussion” with Mr Trump on the taxation of digital groups such as Alphabet and Amazon and that they would “work together on a good agreement to avoid tariff escalation”.
But Steven Mnuchin, the US Treasury secretary, used an appearance in Davos on Tuesday to warn Italy and the UK that could still face tariffs if they pursued new digital taxes.
Mr Trump’s address came on the first full day of the forum’s 50th annual meeting, which has been dominated by concerns about environmental risks and threats to global cohesion.
The president’s speech followed a warning from Klaus Schwab, the World Economic Forum’s founder, of the risks of irreversible climate change and “continued political and economic disintegration” as global leaders and institutions suffer “a general loss of trust”.