Trump touts relationship with May, threatens Palestinian aid at Davos gathering of global elite

PHOTO: President Donald Trump waves as he leaves the White House in Washington, D.C., Jan. 24, 2018, enroute to Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum.PlayManuel Balce Ceneta/AP
WATCH Trump comes to Davos with an argument to make

President Donald Trump is making the case for his “America First” agenda Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, taking his sales pitch on the U.S. economy to the alpine ski village that annually hosts the glitzy gathering of the global business and political elite he repeatedly criticized in his campaign for the White House.

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The theme of this year’s summit is “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World,” an acknowledgement of some of the nationalist and populist forces Trump has channeled in the United States and their impact on globalization.

At a bilateral meeting with United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May to begin his day Thursday, Trump downplayed what he called a "false rumor" that he and May have a poor relationship, instead characterizing it as "really great," and saying he has "tremendous respect" for the prime minister.

The meeting with May followed Trump's abrupt cancellation of a planned trip to the U.K. over what he said was the cost of the new United States embassy in London. Asked by reporters Wednesday about the potential he would make a state visit to the U.K., Trump said, "we will talk about it."

Following his conversation with May, Trump joined Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and threatened to cut Palestinian aid if they don't come to the table to negotiate peace with Israel.

"That money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace because I can tell you that Israel does want to make peace, and they're going to have to want to make peace too or we're going to have nothing to do with it any longer," Trump said.

Trump said that U.S. has "a great proposal" for Middle East peace and said that he helped the peace process by taking Jerusalem off the table. Netanyahu praised Trump's decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, calling the decision a "historic" one.

Trump’s presence also loomed large over the gathering ahead of the event: The World Economic Forum’s annual Global Risk Report analyzing long-term worldwide risk warned that “charismatic strongman politics is on the rise across the world,” citing Trump’s “America First” platform.

The report also argued that Trump’s fulfillment of unilateralist campaign promises to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Paris climate agreement contributed to the “erosion of institutions of multilateral dialogue and decision-making.”

The president maintained an optimistic tone ahead of the trip however, saying that he was attending in order to "get people to invest into the United States.”

“I’m going to say, ‘Come into the United States, you have plenty of money,’” he said Wednesday in an address to mayors gathered at the White House, adding, “It’s going to be an interesting time.

On the heels of the passage of the GOP tax overhaul in Congress and a banner year for stock markets, Trump, who is the first sitting president to attend the event since Bill Clinton, plans to “sell his accomplishments” and “remind that world that we are open to business,” Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic advisor told reporters at the White House Tuesday.

After his summits with May and Netanyahu to begin the day, Trump will have dinner with European business leaders.

On Friday, Trump will address the forum, and also hold bilateral meetings with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Swiss President Alain Berset, before returning to Washington.

In his meetings with world leaders, Trump plans to discuss the future of the Iran nuclear deal, North Korea and the anti-ISIS campaign, national security advisor H.R. McMaster told reporters at the White House earlier this week.

The meeting with Kagame comes after Trump was criticized across the African continent for reportedly referring to African countries as “s***hole countries” in an immigration meeting with senators. Following reports of the comments, the African Union’s mission in Washington called on Trump to apologize “to all people of African descent around the globe.”

While First Lady Melania Trump has cancelled plans to accompany the president over “scheduling and logistical issues,” according to a spokesperson, Trump is joined in Davos by several members of his Cabinet, senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and several members of Congress.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made waves among the global elite on Wednesday when he told forum attendees that a weak dollar is good for American trade, comments that broke with traditional U.S. monetary policy and reportedly led the dollar to plummet to a three-year low.

Trump’s trip also follows his decision to impose tariffs on imports of solar panels and washing machines – a move quickly criticized by China. Earlier this week in Davos, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a revised trade agreement with eleven Pacific nations remaining in the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the United States’ departure.

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