with Paulina Firozi

THE TICKER

President Trump spoke at the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos on Jan. 26. Here are key moments from the speech addressing his "America First" policy. (The Washington Post)

President Trump made a Trump Steaks pitch for international investment in the United States, telling the global assemblage of business elites and foreign leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Friday morning that there’s never been a better time to get in on a sure thing. 

In doing so, Trump sanded the edges off the "America First" credo that other heads of state obliquely criticized in their own addresses. He argued that an economically resurgent America lifts the world, and he invited the heads of foreign-based corporate giants in the audience to participate. “There has never been a better time to hire, to build, to invest and to grow in the United States,” he said. (Read more from my colleague Anne Gearan who was on the scene here.)

The president also underlined his administration’s intent to drive a harder line enforcing trade rules — a pledge given weight by his decision earlier this week to slap tariffs on imports of solar panels and washing machines. “We support free trade but it needs to be fair, and it needs to be reciprocal because in the end unfair trade undermines us all,” Trump said. “The United States will no longer turn a blind eye to unfair economic practices including massive intellectual property theft, industrial subsidies, and pervasive state-led economic planning.” 

But notably, the president also signaled a willingness to deal, including potentially reopening negotiations toward a Trans Pacific Partnership — the massive, 12-nation deal he railed against on the campaign trail and formally iced as soon as he took office. 

My colleague Heather Long reports that ears of some in attendance perked up at that: 

The relatively brief address came as an anticlimax. Trump’s appearance had hung like a question mark in the thin Swiss air this week: Financiers, corporate chiefs and foreign leaders all tried to guess at what the first president to attend the gathering since 2000 intended to say both with his visit and during it — and how it would play in this sanctum of the international order he’s reveled in shredding. 

But the suspense drained as the conference wore on.

The unusually large delegation of administration officials that preceded Trump here made clear that the president intended to lead with a solicitation for investment in the United States. Plus, the business class here revealed they are anything but hostile to most of Trump's economic agenda, hailing his cuts to taxes and regulation as a potentially transformative catalyst for growth both within the United States and beyond. (Fourth-quarter economic growth dipped slightly below 3 percent — a point of pride for the president over the previous two quarters — according to figures released while he was on stage. That means growth for the first year of his presidency came to 2.3 percent.)

Rumors of walkouts during Trump's speech that circulated over the course of the week didn’t amount to much: My colleagues here counted only two protesters, both American. Inside the hall, Trump received mostly polite applause — and some scattered hisses when he referred to “fake” news:

One of the protesters, via The Post's Danielle Paquette: 

But the thrust of Trump’s speech — his declaration that the country he leads is “open for business,” placed him within the mainstream of the heads of state who took their turns before him this week. The conference featured a heavy contingent — including India’s Narendra Modi, Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Emmanuel Macron, UK’s Theresa May and Canada’s Justin Trudeau. 

And while they placed their emphasis differently, talking up the need to resist populist calls for walling off the world, they also made similarly commercial appeals for their own countries. In that, Macron made the grandest gesture, attempting to upstage Davos itself by gathering 140 CEOs on their way to the conference for a dinner at the palace of Versailles to make his pitch. 

"Just like we expect the leaders of other countries to protect their interests, as president of the United States, I will always protect the interests of our country, our companies, and our workers," Trump said. His boosterism may have sounded, as one observer back in the U.S. emailed me, "more like an IPO roadshow than a head of state speech."

It befit a week in which roaring markets drowned out much of the international anxiety surrounding Trump's leadership. 

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The Washington Post is in Davos. Hear from our reporters on the ground at this year's World Economic Forum. (Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)
DAVOS DEBRIEF

"FAKE NEWS" MAKES DAVOS APPEARANCE:

Trump team in Davos wakes up to bombshell report. This New York Times story (quickly matched by The Post) detailing Trump's aborted attempt last June to fire special counsel Robert Mueller broke in the 2 a.m. hour local time. The president faced shouted questions about it from the press as he arrived at the conference center this morning:

Per the NYT's Peter Baker, Trump called the stories "fake news:"

Watch Trump here: 

President Trump denied reports on Jan. 26 that he had ordered special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to be fired in June 2017, calling them “fake news." (Reuters)

SOROS SOUNDS OFF: 

The legendary currency trader and billionaire liberal bankroller delivered a scorching critique of Trump in a Thursday night speech to guests at his annual Davos dinner. He also lit into tech giants — and cryptocurrency. 

On Trump: “Open societies are in crisis, and various forms of dictatorships and mafia states, exemplified by Putin’s Russia, are on the rise. In the United States, President Trump would like to establish a mafia state but he can’t, because the Constitution, other institutions, and a vibrant civil society won’t allow it.

And yet: “Clearly, I consider the Trump administration a danger to the world. But I regard it as a purely temporary phenomenon that will disappear in 2020, or even sooner. I give President Trump credit for motivating his core supporters brilliantly, but for every core supporter, he has created a greater number of core opponents who are equally strongly motivated. That is why I expect a Democratic landslide in 2018.”

On big tech: “As Facebook and Google have grown into ever more powerful monopolies, they have become obstacles to innovation, and they have caused a variety of problems of which we are only now beginning to become aware… They claim they are merely distributing information. But the fact that they are near-monopoly distributors makes them public utilities and should subject them to more stringent regulations, aimed at preserving competition, innovation, and fair and open universal access.”

On cryptocurrency (in response to a question): “Cryptocurrency is a misnomer, and it’s a typical bubble, which is always based on some misunderstanding,” Soros said. “Bitcoin is not a currency. A currency is supposed to be a stable source of value. A currency that can float 25% in a day can’t be used to pay wages. So, it’s a speculation based on a misunderstanding.”

Trump arrived at the conference around 2:45 p.m. local time yesterday. He kicked off his visit by huddling with United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May, followed by a meeting with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Then he hosted more than a dozen top European corporate executives for dinner, during which he pitched the U.S. as an investment opportunity. Today, before his speech, Trump held back-to-back meetings with the Rwandan and Swiss presidents.

— Guess who came to dinner. Here's who was on the guest list: 

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson...Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen... National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster... National Economic Council director Gary Cohn... Adidas's Kasper Rorsted... Siemens AG's Joe Kaeser... Thyssenkrupp AG's Heinrich Hiesinger... Statoil ASA's Eldar Saetre... Nestle SA's ​​​​​​Mark Schneider... Novartis AG's Vas Narasimhan... HSBC's Mark Tucker... Total SA's Patrick Pouyanne... Anheuser-Busch's Carlos Brito... Nokia Corporation's Rajeev Suri... Deloitte's Punit Renjen... AB Volvo's Martin Lundstedt... Bayer's Werner Baumann... SAP SE's Bill McDermott... ABB Ltd's Ulrich Spiesshofer...

The original list had some typos ("Martian:")

Total's Pouyanne tweeted following the dinner: 

Here's a clip from the dinner:

NBC News's Monica Alba noted Tillerson arrived late, and waited on the sidelines before joining the table: 

— All the President's Friends: Bloomberg’ Stephanie Baker, Caleb Melby and Jackie Gu pulled together the tangled web of “the most important friends, frenemies and business associates that Trump and [senior adviser Jared Kushner] could encounter in Davos:

MORE ON THE MNUCHIN DOLLAR MELT:

— Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin created a firestorm here by suggesting the Trump administration endorses a weak dollar, since it would make American exports cheaper to foreign buyers and thereby boost exports. The comments broke with decades of official U.S government support for a strong dollar — and prompted criticism from economists and market watchers that the statement could undermine confidence in a range of assets, including the Treasury market.

The Times's Baker explained the tempest this way: "His name now appears on the dollar bill. But that does not mean it is safe for him to actually talk about the dollar ... Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin got a searing reminder of that this week when an apparently offhand comment, that a weak dollar benefits American trade, helped plunge the currency to a three-year low and touched off a flurry of speculation about the Trump administration’s economic plans ... If the United States were reversing more than two decades of policy, as some feared Mr. Mnuchin’s comment indicated, it could initiate a return to the currency wars that once roiled the global economy.

But Mr. Mnuchin insisted on Thursday that was not the case. He meant his previous remark only as a statement of fact, not an objective of the administration or another tool in Mr. Trump’s war against what he considers unfair practices by America’s trading partner ... 'I thought my comment on the dollar was actually quite clear yesterday,' he told reporters hours before Mr. Trump arrived in Davos. 'I thought it was actually balanced and consistent with what I’ve said before, which is we’re not concerned with where the dollar is in the short term, it’s a very, very liquid market, and we believe in free currencies. And that there’s both advantages and disadvantages of where the dollar is in the short term. Let me say, I thought that was clear.'"

NOT PLAYING WELL:

— Even with Mnuchin's boss. Trump told CNBC Mnuchin's comment was "taken out of context." "I read his exact statement and I'll tell you where I stand," he said. "Number one I don't like talking about it because frankly nobody should be talking about it, it should be what it is. It should be based on the strength of the country.... The dollar is going to get stronger and stronger, and ultimately I want to see a strong dollar."

— European Central Bank’s Mario Draghi says Mnuchin's not playing by the rules. Bloomberg: “Draghi attacked the U.S. Treasury Secretary’s comments on the dollar, saying he isn’t playing by the rules. Speaking in Frankfurt on Thursday, Draghi said the recent euro-dollar moves are partly down to [Mnuchin]’s intervention, saying: The exchange rate has moved ‘In part due to exogenous reasons that have to do with communication. But not by the ECB, but by someone else. This someone else’s communication doesn’t comply with the agreed terms of references.’”

— IMF’s Lagarde wants an explanation: “International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde had earlier called for Mnuchin to explain his remarks and reminded him that the dollar’s value is set by the market. For good measure she added that now is not the time for a currency war. ‘The dollar is of all currencies a floating currency and one where value is determined by markets and geared by the fundamentals of U.S. policy, Lagarde said in a Bloomberg Television interview.” 

— JPMorgan Chase’s Frenkel warns of currency war. “Among those who’ve raised the alarm are Jacob Frenkel, chairman of JPMorgan Chase International. ‘We should prevent it at all costs,’ he said. ‘A currency war in the monetary sphere is the mirror image of protectionism in the real sphere. We should have a mindset of openness in all dimensions.’

—  Larry Summers calls it bad form and bad policy:What is wrong with this picture? Style, first. Previous Treasury secretaries had little to say about the dollar. What they have said has been carefully scripted and oriented to long-term soundness. They insisted on being their administration’s sole spokesman on foreign exchange issue. Mnuchin spoke without a script, began with near-term commercial considerations, and was apparently contradicted by the Commerce secretary. None of this can be reassuring to those looking to judge the competence and credibility of the Trump administration.”

President Trump met with British Prime Minister May on Jan. 25 at the 2018 World Economic Forum, where the two leaders discussed U.S.-UK trade relations. (The Washington Post)

— Trump rebuts “false rumors” about relationship with  May. Fox News’s Adam Shaw: “The two leaders spoke [in Davos], where they downplayed rumors that their relationship had become frosty amid a number of high-profile controversies… ‘[ May] and myself have had a really great relationship, although some people don't necessarily believe that. But I can tell you it's true,’ Trump told reporters. ’I have a tremendous respect for the prime minister and the job she's doing. And I think the feeling is mutual from the standpoint of liking each other a lot….We are very much joined at the hip when it comes to the military. We have the same ideas, the same ideals,’ he said before turning to speak to May directly.

‘There's nothing that would happen to you that we won't be there to fight for you.’ May was similarly glowing in her praise of what she called a ‘really special relationship between the U.K. and the United States….In fact... stronger because we both face the same challenges across the world, and as you say, we're working together to meet those challenges,’”

— Trump also predicted improved trade relations with the country. BBC: “... Trump said: ‘One thing that will be taking place over a number of years will be trade. Trade is going to increase many times… We look forward to that and we are starting that process, pretty much as we speak.’ Mrs. May replied…’Alongside that working for a good trade relationship for the future which will be for both our benefits, so the UK and the US both do well out of this - and it's been great to see you today.’”

— Mnuchin revived trade talks, too. BBC’s Kamal Ahmed: "Mr. Mnuchin said Britain would still be at the ‘front of the queue’ for a bilateral free trade deal following the exit from the European Union. ‘As soon as the UK is ready we will be prepared to negotiate an attractive trade deal,’ he told the BBC in Davos."

— Post-Davos plans to visit UK in the works. BuzzFeed’s Jim Waterson and Ben Smith: “Officials are currently ‘finalising the details’ of a visit, with no confirmation on where the US president will visit, or whether it will be a full state visit where he is hosted by Queen Elizabeth. Trump accepted the offer of a state visit to the UK in his first week as president, a rare honour for a US leader who has only just taken office. But a year later no date has been set for the visit, amid reports he was worried about negative coverage in the British press and potential protests."

— May no longer a big Davos draw? The Guardian's Larry Elliot: "A year on from her Davos debut as prime minister, May is a much diminished figure in the eyes of the people who run the UK’s biggest companies. Downing Street considered May’s 24 hours in Davos a success: she delivered a serious speech; she spent the morning in private conversations about the importance of new technology; she was the first leader to hold a bilateral with [Trump]; and there were no embarrassing moments.

But something was not quite right.... Twelve months ago, May was a big draw in Davos. It was seven months after the Brexit vote and the UK had yet to trigger article 50....A year on, the hall was only two-thirds full to hear May speak, and her 30-minute address was considered worthy but dull. Most leaders prefer to sit on stage in an armchair while Klaus Schwab, the founder of Davos, butters them up. May opted for the formal approach, waiting off stage until Schwab had finished his spiel."

President Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at the 2018 World Economic Forum on Jan. 25 where Netanyahu thanked Trump for his Jerusalem decision. (The Washington Post)

— Meanwhile, Trump not off the hook for his ‘shithole’ comments. The Post’s Paul Schemm: “If President Trump was hoping that the rancor provoked by his reported comment about Africa's ‘shithole countries’ had dissipated, the African Union’s top official made clear Thursday that it was still very much on everyone’s mind. The semi-annual meeting of African heads of state at the African Union begins Sunday. Speaking to African foreign ministers preparing for the summit, the African Union commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said Africa was not happy with the U.S. president…. Among his many meetings [in Davos], [Trump] will encounter Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda and a key player on the African continent.”

More from CNN: "National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster confirmed that Trump will meet Kagame, according to CNN's Jake Tapper. It's unclear whether Trump will meet other African leaders at Davos, but President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa are among the attendees."

— African delegates planned to protest Trump’s speech: Swissinfo.ch: “African delegates are planning to boycott [Trump's] closing speech ... Business Leadership Africa CEO Bonang Mohale, a Davos attendee, penned an open letter before the WEF meeting, urging people to turn their backs on Trump when he arrives at WEF... 'Many of us will be boycotting your address to delegates at Davos in protest against your divisive comments and continued failure to unequivocally apologise. We encourage likeminded peers to do the same.'"

— Ross talks automation. The Post’s Danielle Paquette: “Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday that the rise of automation will not significantly diminish jobs in the United States, and that the country will double down on retraining efforts to help workers who have been displaced by robots. ‘Technology doesn’t just shrink jobs,’ he told reporters gathered at the World Economic Forum in Davos. ‘It changes the nature of jobs.’ Ross invoked skeptics of the past who also feared shifts in the way people work — Luddites trying to keep factories from opening,’ he called them.”

THE SCENE

BuzzFeed's Ryan Broderick on his favorite moment: 

Here's what's on a mountainside near the conference: 

Spotted via NBC News's Vaughn Hillyard: 

DAYBOOK

Here are some of the highlights from Davos of events you might want to attend (all times local):

Today

  • An interactive panel on famine and food security will begin at 9 a.m. in Congress Centre, Situation Room.
  • A televised session on the future of Asian economics will begin at 9:15 a.m. in Congress Centre, Aspen 2.
  • An interactive panel on the state of startups will begin at 9:15 a.m. in Congress Centre, Aspen 1.
  • A session on the rise of women entrepreneurs will begin in Congress Centre, xChange at 10:45 a.m.
  • A lunch session on the business of Brexit will start at 12:30 p.m. in Morosani Posthotel, Davoserstube.
  • An interactive panel on the global economic outlook will begin at 1 p.m. in Congress Centre, Congress Hall.
  • The closing concert in Congress Centre, Congress Hall will begin at 5:30 p.m.
BULL SESSION

See Trump arrived in Switzerland:

President Trump arrived at Zurich airport on Jan. 25 before proceeding by helicopter to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. (Reuters)

Trump says he "would certainly apologize" for his Britan First retweet in a Piers Morgan interview (though it's rather qualified, see for yourself:)

In a British TV interview on Jan. 26, President Trump said he would apologize for retweeting anti-Muslim videos from a far-right British group. (ITV Studios Daytime)

How global companies are adjusting to rising nationalism:

The Washington Post is in Davos. Hear from our reporters on the ground at this year's World Economic Forum. (Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)

See this nutella riot break out in a French supermarket:

In this video posted to Twitter on Jan. 25, French shoppers fought for Nutella after France’s Intermarché supermarkets offered a 70 percent off deal. (Newsflare/KennyLeBon)