Davos elites await Trump's 'America First' message

  • President Donald Trump is expected to deliver an "American First" message when he speaks at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Friday.
  • According to Reuters, who cited a senior U.S. administration official, Trump will tell the Davos audience that his administration will not tolerate intellectual property theft and trade abuses.

President Donald Trump is expected to deliver an "America First" message when he speaks at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Friday.

Trump has been meeting business executives and other world leaders during his two-day stay in the Swiss Alps. His presence at the Forum will culminate with the speech on Friday afternoon, when he is expected to defend his trade policy.

According to Reuters, who cited a senior U.S. administration official, Trump will tell the Davos audience that his administration will not tolerate intellectual property theft and trade abuses.

"The United States is also committed to enforcing trade law and trade agreements and international trade standards," the official told reporters at the Swiss ski resort. "The United States will no longer tolerate things like the theft of intellectual property or forced technology transfers or industrial subsidies ... and dumping, trade abuses."

Ahead of Friday's keynote speech, Trump told CNBC that the dollar will strengthen over time under his leadership and that recent remarks made by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about the greenback were misinterpreted.

In other remarks, he also said that he would reconsider the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal if the United States could strike a "substantially better" agreement.

World leaders rally against 'protectionism'

Even before Trump arrived in Switzerland on Thursday, world leaders were busy making it clear that they disagree with the anti-free trade rhetoric coming out of the United States.

Without always naming the United States, the heads of state of Brazil, India, Canada and Italy all said they disagree with what they believe is an anti-free trade stance from the world's biggest economy.

"We know all too well that we live in a world where isolation trends are gaining ground, however, we all know that protectionism is not a solution," Michel Temer, the Brazilian president, told an audience in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday.

Speaking at Davos on Tuesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: "We are working very hard to make sure our neighbor to the south recognizes how good NAFTA (the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement) is and that it has benefited not just our economy but his economy and the world's economy."

What can we expect from the speech?

Expect "America First," a broadside against unfair trade practices, tough talk toward enemies and a fair bit of bragging when Trump speaks, experts from the fields of defense, foreign policy, economics and politics told CNBC.

"It's anyone's guess what Mr Trump will talk about at Davos, but whatever he focuses on specifically — like terrorism or international trade — he will have one eye on his political base back in the U.S.," Peter Trubowitz, director of the United States Center at the London School of Economics, told CNBC. "In short, I look for a variation on the 'I was elected to represent Pittsburgh not Paris' theme."

Since entering office one year ago, Trump has overturned both his predecessors' policies and political norms, touting his accomplishments while lamenting negative coverage from the press. Critics fear he has alienated and insulted important allies, while his supporters laud his focus on an "America First" agenda.

And he's been vocal in deriding what he calls the "global elite" — the wealthy, internationalist, and largely progressive community associated with Davos. Friday's crowd may be a tough one.

"Trump has every right to brag about what he has accomplished for the U.S. in the past year," Jan Halper-Hayes, former worldwide vice president of Republicans Overseas, told CNBC. "He'll definitely talk about tax reform, and he'll definitely talk about how encouraging companies to bring their money back here will only propel the economy that much stronger."

Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) specializing in U.S. economic competitiveness, anticipates a reiteration of the narrative that "the world has taken advantage of the United States on trade and (Trump) is going to put an end to it," he told CNBC via email.

"And I expect he will do some bragging about the strength of the U.S. stock market and the wisdom of the tax reform bill, and will point to the recent announcements of new investments in the U.S. to bolster the case that his tough new approach is working." Apple, Chrysler and Toyota, among others, have all announced major U.S. investments since the passage of the Republican-spearheaded Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December.

— CNBC's full interview of President Trump will air on "Squawk Box" at 6 a.m. ET Friday.