At Davos, Trump Will Cast Self As Global Trade Sheriff

Official: Administration is ‘enforcing the rules of the road’

President Donald Trump speaks during a ceremony last Wednesday for former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump speaks during a ceremony last Wednesday for former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Posted January 26, 2018 at 7:00am

President Donald Trump is expected to use a much-anticipated address Friday at an economic conference to put the world on notice that there is a new sheriff in town when it comes to global trade: Himself.

The president’s address at the World Economic Conference Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, is expected to focus on several themes, including urging other world leaders and corporate executives to invest in America and Trump’s insistence that America put itself first in trade talks and broker better deals, a senior administration official said Friday.

But, in his signature form, expect some blunt talk from the 45th U.S. chief executive.

The senior official described his remarks, set for 8 a.m. ET, as “less as a warning” to world and business leaders “and more as an explanation of our commitment to the international trading system.” The president wants to send a clear message that his government is “enforcing the rules of the road … so all countries, all nations, all people can benefit,” the official said, according to a pool report released by the White House.

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Trump also will point to things done under his watch, such as nixing federal regulations and the GOP tax overhaul law, to tell those at the swanky conference that “America is open for business.”

Amid worries that his “America first” philosophy is protectionist in nature and will turn the United States away from the global trading scene, the senior administration official signaled he will try to reassure the Davos crowd – but with a Trumpian twist.

“‘America first’ does not mean America alone,” Gary Cohn said on Tuesday when asked by reporters at the White HOuse if the president’s nationalist philosophy might fly in the face of the Davos group’s globalist goals. Cohn pointed to the president’s Asia swing last year, arguing Trump talked to regional players there about his willingness to negotiate bilateral trade pacts.

He will talk about “America’s engagement in the global trading system” and his administration’s “commitment to free and open markets,” the senior administration officials said.

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 But Trump, as he has on previous swings through Europe and Asia, will make clear that engagement will come “on terms that are fair and reciprocal.”


While his 2016 presidential campaign featured plenty of go-it-alone rhetoric, the speech will include some signs that Trump has learned all U.S. presidents learn they need allies and partners.


He will use the speech to “issue calls to the international community” to work together – read: with him – when their interests align, the senior official said, mentioning the fight against the Islamic State and the North Korean nuclear threat. Not coincidentally, those matters, along with Iran, have been called the top threats to the United States by Trump administration officials.


“You may pick up on sort of a theme,” the senior administration official said, “a vision of free and sovereign nations cooperating toward shared goals.”