He talked about an “economic boom the likes of which the world has never seen before," as he described his formula of cutting taxes, slashing regulations and renegotiating trade deals to boost the economy.
It sounded similar to campaign speeches he has delivered in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. His main message to world leaders was to follow his lead on the economy — and to get ready for more trade negotiations.
The president’s remarks were a noticeable break from key European leaders who spoke on the main stage minutes before Trump. They all urged global cooperation to tackle the world’s biggest challenges, especially climate change.
“The world is on fire,” Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga said before playing a video of bees losing their habitat as the environment shifts. “We can no longer stand by and watch."
Sommaruga appeared to be talking about the United States when she said, "We need politicians to take action in their own countries.”
Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, called on companies and world leaders to agree to go carbon neutral by 2050. As the forum celebrates its 50th year, he stressed that it has been a place to build “community.”
“The world is in a state of emergency and the window to act is closing fast,” Schwab said.
As Trump focused on largely short-term economic gains, European leaders emphasized the world’s long-term needs.
“We do not want to leave behind to the next generation an ever more hostile and ever less habitable world,” Schwab said.
Trump “was totally out of step” with other leaders, said Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist who has been critical of Trump. “It was ‘America first,’ again."
Many European leaders were taken aback by Trump’s desire for strong leadership in so many areas, except on climate. “The greatest risk to U.S. leadership in the world is around failing to be a leader in sustainable investment,” said Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS bank.
But others noted that Trump has some bragging rights at the moment on the economy.
Ángel Gurría, head of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, said he hopes the economic strength of the United States will “transmit to the rest of the world economy.”
But he said he wishes Trump would stop his trade war. “It’s good to know the largest economy in the world is doing well. At the same time, hopefully, we can follow up on these trade deals to continue to lower the tensions,” Gurría said just after Trump’s speech.
This is Trump’s second appearance at Davos. He came two years ago to stress the message that “America first" is not "America alone,” an attempt to extend an olive branch to world leaders and indicate that he did want to work with them, especially on trade and national security.
But this time his message was almost solely about the U.S. economy.
“Today, I hold up the American model as an example to the world of a working system of free enterprise that will ensure the most benefits to the most people in the 21st century and beyond,” he said.
Trump took a victory lap for the recent U.S.-China “phase one” trade deal and the renegotiated trade agreement with Canada and Mexico. He then chastised European leaders for not buying more U.S. natural gas and oil to free themselves from dependency on other parts of the world.
Trump’s only real praise for anything outside the United States came at the very end of his remarks when he lauded European architecture such as the “Duomo” cathedral in Florence.
It was notable to many in the audience that Trump had to reach back to the Renaissance to find anything worth applauding.