DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — Playing the role of economic cheerleader, President Donald Trump told an annual gathering of political and business elites Friday that America is open for business and that economic growth in the U.S. under his "America first" agenda could benefit the globe.
Trump told the World Economic Forum in Davos, an incongruous location for a nationalist president, that American prosperity has created countless jobs around the world and he made clear he would remain focused on the U.S. economy.
But with a chamber of commerce-style pitch, the businessman-turned-president used the forum to sell the U.S. as a prime place to conduct business, noting the recent passage of a sweeping tax overhaul.
"America is the place to do business. So come to America, where you can innovate, create and build," Trump said. "I believe in America."
The president sought to strike a balance, tempering his nationalist agenda with reassurances to the globalist and cooperation-minded audience that his protectionist vision "does not mean America alone."
"When the United States grows, so does the world," Trump said. "American prosperity has created countless jobs around the globe and the drive for excellence, creativity and innovation in the United States has led to important discoveries that help people everywhere live more prosperous and healthier lives."
Trump claimed he had inherited "years of stagnation" in the U.S. but recent economic figures show that U.S. companies and other employers added 2.1 million jobs in 2017, the lowest job growth in seven years.
Taking the stage, Trump received modest applause but some people kept their hands at their sides. The crowd was largely subdued as the president spoke but there were boos and hisses when he took a swipe at "how nasty, how mean, how vicious and how fake the press can be."
The free-trade-focused gathering had viewed Trump with skepticism, given his "America First" message, but the White House has insisted that his protectionist policies and international cooperation can go hand-in-hand.
Trump addressed a crowd of over 1,500 people packed into a high-ceilinged hall in the modern conference center. Anticipation was high from attendees, who had watched the president closely since he arrived, snapping photos when he entered and as he moved from room to room.
Jay Flatley, executive chairman of California-based genome sequencing company Illumina, said Trump's speech was "a very calming presentation, considering how it could have gone."
But Joseph Stiglitz, a frequent Trump critic and Nobel Prize winner in economics, found it far from convincing. He argued that the new U.S. tax cuts will create a bubble in the housing market. "I've never known an economy to grow long-term by real estate speculation," he said.
Others faulted Trump for not using the opportunity to broaden the message beyond business and bring the U.S. into line with concerns expressed by other leaders in Davos — such as on climate change.
"I was very disappointed but not surprised that the president didn't say anything positive about global warming," said Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp. "He talked about doing things in partnership and together, and yet the United States is the only country in the world standing aside from the Paris agreement."
Associated Press writers Jamey Keaton and Pan Pylas in Davos, Jonathan Lemire in New York and Ken Thomas in Washington contributed to this report.
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