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    Trump’s ‘America First’ agenda faces tough reception at Davos forum

    President Trump is expected to be greeted by several feet of snow and an icy reception when he touches down in Switzerland on Thursday for the World Economic Forum, an annual summit of the world’s political and corporate elite — and the unlikeliest of places for his conservative populist brand to thrive.
    Republican lawmakers and allies of the administration were surprised to learn of Trump’s planned visit to the Alpine gathering earlier this month. To some, the timing seemed suspect, as his attendance was announced on the heels of a feud with former chief strategist Steve Bannon, who would often place enemies of the president in the “Davos crowd.” Others remain curious to see what kind of reception he receives and whether he strikes the right tone in a major speech on Friday.
    That Trump agreed to attend the global forum, becoming the first sitting president to do so since 2000, was puzzling for several reasons.
    In his announcement speech in 2015, the lifelong businessman complained about U.S. participation in multilateral trade agreements, endorsed the revolt against globalization, and promised to upend the status quo. For the most part, those same declarations guided his agenda and executive decisions during his first year in office. Just 48 hours before jetting off to Davos, Trump approved tariffs on imported solar panels and large washing machines in a push to boost American manufacturers.
    The move largely foreshadowed what Trump will focus on during his visit to the annual forum, according to White House officials.
    “We’re going to the World Economic Forum to share President Trump’s economic story and tell the world America is open for business,” said Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council and one of several top aides attending Davos.
    Trump is slated to hold four bilateral sit-downs with the leaders of Israel, Switzerland, Rwanda and the United Kingdom during his two-day visit overseas. However, one the most important meetings on the president’s agenda will occur Thursday when he is scheduled to “host a small dinner with select European companies to share our economic success story and encourage them to continue to invest in America,” Cohn said.
    “In all his meetings, the president hopes to increase economic opportunities for the American people and to find new ways to reform international and regional organizations to make them more effective and more accountable,” White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters on Tuesday.
    The roundtable will occur just over a month after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law, legislation that is expected to make American companies more competitive globally by lowering the corporate tax rate to 21 percent. Trump is expected to tout passage of the historic tax reform bill, among other accomplishments from his first year in Washington, throughout his time at Davos. Cohn said the president will “remind the world that he has made America very competitive” and share what more he hopes to achieve during the remainder of his first term.
    “America first is not America alone. We’re part of a world economy, and the president believes that,” Cohn said, adding that Trump will emphasize the need to eliminate “artificial” barriers and ensure every country is abiding by international law.
    But the administration’s accomplishments are just one aspect of what Trump hopes to discuss. Both Cohn and McMaster said the president will renew his call for closer cooperation on his administration’s goal of denuclearizing North Korea and emphasize U.S. efforts to counter and expose Iran’s aggressive agenda in the Middle East.
    “The president will use this forum to reiterate his commitment to mutually beneficial partnerships and to fair and reciprocal international economic systems,” McMaster said.
    The last time Trump spoke about isolating North Korea was during the 72nd annual United Nations General Assembly, when he referred to the country’s leader as “rocket man” and threatened to “totally destroy” Pyongyang.
    “I expect him to be more restrained this time around, considering the crowd,” said a source close to the White House.
    In his opening remarks at Davos on Tuesday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Davos warned against a new wave of protectionism, claiming that barriers to free trade are just as damaging to the world as climate change and terrorism. Though he declined to mention Trump by name, the speech highlighted the major divide that exists between the president’s worldview and the outlook shared by most of his foreign counterparts.
    Traditionally, Davos has widely been seen as a retreat for so-called “globalists,” the very group Trump growled against during his presidential campaign. Some administration officials have pushed back on that characterization, despite suggesting that Trump’s presence will be a breath of fresh air at the annual forum.
    “I don’t think it’s a hangout for globalists,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told reporters earlier this month. “I think the idea is that the economic team will go over and talk about the America First economic strategy.”
    Trump will depart Washington late Wednesday evening, after Vice President Mike Pence debriefs the president following his return from the Middle East. The U.S. delegation to Davos will include Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and White House advisers Jared Kushner and Chris Liddell, among others.

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