U.S. President Donald Trump told the world’s elite Friday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that America’s interests will always be his highest priority, but he predicted the U.S. would remain the fulcrum of the global economy.
“I will always put America first,” he said. “Just like the leaders of other countries should put their countries first. But America first does not mean America alone,” Trump said in his keynote address.
WATCH: Trump on America First policy
Trump attempted to dampen concern among world leaders at Davos that his “America First” agenda would disrupt the global system that underpins the summit.
“When the United States grows, so does the world,” Trump said.
Trump warned world leaders, however, the U.S. would not agree to what he considers another unfair trade agreement, saying, “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.”
WATCH: Trump on unfair trade
Prior to the speech, Trump tried to repair relations with Rwandan President Paul Kagame days after calling African nations “s***hole countries” as he rejected a bipartisan immigration proposal, drawing widespread condemnation from world leaders.
Trump, who has denied using the term, touted the U.S.-Rwandan partnership as they met on the sidelines of the forum. Trump asked Kagame to send his “warmest regards” to other African leaders attending the summit. He also said he had “good discussions” with Kagame, who just began a one-year term as leader of the African Union, a 55-nation organization that condemned Trump’s remarks.
Trump also met on the sidelines Friday with Swiss President Alain Berset and said his efforts to reduce taxes and regulations in the U.S. would be beneficial to Switzerland. “You have a lot of our stock in the United States so I have helped to make Switzerland even richer,” Trump said.
On Thursday in Davos, President Trump rejected what he called ‘false rumors’ of differences with British Prime Minister Theresa May and promised to boost trade after Britain’s EU exit.
“I look forward to the discussions that will be taking place are going to lead to tremendous increases in trade between our two countries which is great for both in terms of jobs,” he said, adding that Britain and the United States are “joined at the hip when it comes to the military.”
Wealth distribution questioned
The general mood in Davos has been upbeat, with the IMF forecasting synchronized global growth across 2018. But behind the many closed doors, there also is talk of danger ahead. The background report to the WEF summit is titled “Fractures, Fears and Failures,” a reflection of growing global tension, says Inderjeet Parmar, professor of international politics at City University London.
“Even though international wealth and the wealth of states and the levels of economic growth and the GDPs of states have grown, the inequality of the distribution is having large scale political effects.”
The fortunes of the world’s wealthiest 500 billionaires rose by a quarter last year, while the poorest 50 percent of the world’s population did not increase their income. Oxfam Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, in Davos for the summit, says it is time for action.
“I’m here to tell big business and politicians that this is not natural, that it’s their actions and their policies that have caused it, and they can reverse it.”
Before Trump delivered his speech Friday, he said he is ready to apologize for retweeting incendiary videos from the far-right Britain First group. In an interview at the summit with Piers Morgan of the British television network ITV, Trump said he was not aware of the far-right organization when he reposted their videos late last year.
“If you are telling me they’re horrible people, horrible, racist people, I would certainly apologize if you like me to do that,” Trump said.