DAVOS, Switzerland — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe drew a sharp contrast between his view of the world and President Trump’s in a major speech on the main stage of the World Economic Forum.
Abe received a warm welcome in Davos as he became the latest world leader to defend globalization as Trump calls for “America First” and sweeping changes to global institutions and norms. The Japanese leader called for free trade, urgent action on climate change and more opportunities for women in an address before many global leaders.
Trump was supposed to make a speech in Davos this week, but he canceled because of the government shutdown.
Abe said the world must aim for zero net emissions of carbon dioxide “around 2050” and expressed optimism that technologies such as carbon capture would advance quickly to make a green revolution possible and beneficial to the world economy.
“Spending money on a green Earth and a blue ocean — once deemed costly — is now a growth generator,” Abe said. “We must invite more disruptive innovations before it’s too late.”
Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord, the largest international agreement to address climate change, saying in 2017, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris."
Many business and government leaders in Davos are angry at Trump’s trade tariffs and have called on the U.S. president to end the trade war. Abe said the U.S.-China trade spat is a “risk” to the global economy.
Abe did not mention Trump by name, but it was clear to whom he was referring when he said, “Japan is determined to preserve and committed to enhancing to free open and rules based international order.”
In his speech, Abe celebrated two major global trade deals that Japan is part of but the United States is not. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) just took effect to lower trade barriers significantly for 11 nations around the Pacific Ocean. The United States was the original architect of the TPP, but Trump pulled the nation out of the agreement in one of his first moves as president.
Trump favors bilateral trade deals, as opposed to multilateral ones, and is trying to work on agreements with Japan, Europe, Britain and China. But Abe made it clear the world is moving forward on trade without Trump.
“I am just as pleased and just as proud to make another announcement,” Abe said Wednesday. “Effective, February 1, which is just around he corner, the E.U.-Japan economic partnership and remit will enter into force.”
In perhaps the most surprising swipe at Trump and past U.S. leaders, Abe celebrated the fact that Japan has made major improvements in getting women into the workforce “while lessening the burden that women shoulder.”
Since he returned to power in 2012, Abe said 2 million more women are now employed.
“The rate of female labor participation has hit 67 percent, an all-time high for Japan and higher than, say, in the U.S.," Abe said.
Labor force participation by women in the United States is just over 57 percent, according to the Labor Department. The United States used to be a leader in women working but has now fallen behind many other advanced economies. Many economists say the fact that the United States is the only advanced economy without paid parental leave is holding back women’s ability to search for and keep jobs.
Abe took a victory lap for Japan’s growth in recent years, although growth is slowing.
“Hope is the most important factor for growth,” Abe said. “Defeatism about Japan is now defeated.”