President Trump took credit for a “great American comeback” in a speech that served as a cross-Atlantic rebuttal to the start of his impeachment trial Tuesday, telling an elite assemblage in Switzerland that other nations could learn from his push to slash taxes, cut red tape and tap energy resources.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum, Mr. Trump said the resurgence he predicted during his 2018 visit to Davos is coming to fruition, with the U.S. “in the midst of an economic boom the likes of which the world has never seen before.”
“America is thriving, America is flourishing, and yes, America is winning again like never before,” Mr. Trump told the gathering of corporate leaders, politicians and economists at the Davos Congress Center.
Mr. Trump said his trade pacts with China and North American partners forged new templates for international commerce.
But he didn’t offer a plan for tackling climate change — this year’s forum is focused on sustainability — and took veiled swipes at environmentalists who predict doom and want government-oriented solutions.
Mr. Trump is spending two days at Davos while senators begin a trial on his potential removal from office. The House impeached him in late December over his interactions with Ukraine.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Mr. Trump would be busy during his stay but that staff would brief him on the trial “periodically.”
The president has decried the proceedings and says his record of economic success undergirds his belief that the trial is a political sham.
“That whole thing is a hoax,” Mr. Trump said during a bilateral meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “It goes nowhere because nothing happened. The only thing we’ve done is a great job. We have the strongest country in the world by far.”
Later Tuesday, Mr. Trump met with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to request his help in reaching a “lasting political settlement” to the conflict in Afghanistan that would “bring peace and ensure terrorists can no longer operate from the country,” according to the White House.
He also said he isn’t giving up on his threat to impose tariffs on European cars if the U.S. cannot reach a fair trade pact with the European Union.
“We expect to be able to make a deal with Europe. And if they don’t make a deal, we’ll certainly give that very strong consideration. OK?” Mr. Trump told reporters. “But we expect to make a deal with Europe.”
Earlier in the day, Mr. Trump used his speech to paint a bleak picture of the U.S. before he took office.
Speaking in a subdued tone after overnight travel, he dismissed President Obama’s efforts to lift the economy out of the depths of the 2008 recession and pointed to “hardworking, ordinary” citizens who felt neglected.
“They were rapidly losing faith in the system,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Trump said he turned the situation around and cited low unemployment for blacks, people without college degrees and others.
He pointed to rising wages for millennials and factory openings, though the Federal Reserve on Friday said U.S. manufacturing went into a mild recession last year because of poor global growth, Mr. Trump’s trade wars and troubles at aerospace company Boeing.
Critics say tit-for-tat tariffs in the run-up to Mr. Trump’s phase 1 trade deal with China caused real damage, with major issues left to be resolved with Beijing.
Yet Mr. Trump told Davos attendees that he was the only one bold enough to take on the Asian juggernaut. The early-stage deal stopped Beijing’s forced transfer of technology from U.S. companies, opened its financial services sector and made it buy agricultural goods, he said.
He said tariffs will remain in place while he works on the second phase of the deal.
Mr. Trump said the U.S. is becoming a major producer and exporter of natural gas and is “on the threshold of virtually unlimited reserves of energy.”
Notably missing from his address was a strategy to take on climate change, though he said the U.S. has its cleanest air and water ever and will join a global initiative to plant 1 trillion trees.
Climate change is a key topic of this year’s forum in Davos, though Mr. Trump obliquely derided “the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers.”
“To embrace the possibilities of tomorrow, we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse,” he said. “They want us to do badly, but we won’t let that happen.”
Greta Thunberg, a 17-year-old climate activist from Sweden, scolded Davos attendees and said empty promises and planting trees won’t cut it. She said the world must stop extracting and investing in fossil fuels.
“Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fueling the flames by the hour. And we are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else,” she said in her speech to the forum.
Mr. Trump, who has mocked Greta online, told The Wall Street Journal that the activist seemed “very angry” but he didn’t know much about her.
Mr. Trump took an overnight flight on Air Force One to Zurich before slicing through the Alps by helicopter to reach Davos.
A group of Swiss tenors served as an opening act for Mr. Trump at the meeting hall. They sang a traditional carol from the 16th century.
After Mr. Trump spoke, some attendees weren’t in a festive mood.
“This was a speech for the billionaires that the president’s agenda has propped up at the expense of millions of ordinary Americans,” said Amitabh Behar, a Davos forum representative for Oxfam, a large nonprofit that focuses on global poverty. “It is embarrassing to see the president deliver a sales pitch for the American oil and gas industry rather than face up to challenges of the climate emergency. An economy that really works for women, men and the planet will not be built on tax giveaways for the richest and denials of the science.”