Davos WEF

A 'preelection speech': Attendees react to Trump's Davos address

Key Points
  • In what was his second speech as U.S. president at Davos, Trump outlined how his "America-first" approach has worked and advised other countries to follow suit.
  • Trump mentioned how the United States is experiencing an "economic boom" and that the U.S. middle class is benefiting the most from it.
President Donald Trump addresses the World Economic Forum at the congress centre in Davos, on January 21, 2020.
Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images

DAVOS, Switzerland — Some attendees at the World Economic Forum described President Donald Trump's remarks as being a little too optimistic.

The U.S. president addressed politicians and business leaders at the WEF on Tuesday morning, where he took credit for what he called America's "stunning turnaround." In his second speech as U.S. leader at Davos, Trump outlined how his "America-first" approach had worked and advised other countries to follow suit.

However, some of the audience members argued that Trump was actually talking to voters back home.

"He painted a very golden big picture (of the U.S.)," Luiz Carlos Trabuco Cappi, chairman of Banco Bradesco, told CNBC.

"What he came here to do was to speak to his electorate," Cappi said.

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During his remarks, Trump mentioned how the United States is experiencing an "economic boom" and that the U.S. middle class is benefiting the most from it. The International Monetary Fund said Monday it foresees a slight fall in growth for the U.S. economy. It expects GDP growth to reach 2.3% in 2019, 2% in 2020 and 1.7% in 2021.

"It was a very normal speech in substance, but it was much more disciplined and less emotional," Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff told CNBC about Trump's address.

"Some of the facts he cited were important," Rogoff said. "Some of the other facts he cited I don't know (from) what planet they came from; in particular that his administration has adopted policies that has made it easier for women to get child care."

In his address, Trump claimed his administration has made "extraordinary strides."

"We are lifting up forgotten communities, creating exciting new opportunities, and helping every American find their path to the American Dream — the dream of a great job, a safe home, and a better life for their children," Trump said.

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Mario Moretti Polegato, president of the shoe retailer Geox, said the speech was "too optimistic" and urged U.S. officials to bridge some of their differences with the European Union.

The trade relationship between the EU and the U.S. has deteriorated since Trump was elected in 2016 and ended trade negotiations between both sides of the Atlantic. Trump imposed tariffs on European aluminum and steel, approved additional duties on Europe regarding airline subsidies and has threatened levies on European carmakers and on French goods.

Alberto Alemanno, professor of EU law at HEC Business School in Paris, described the president's speech as an "endless, tedious and bombastic list of largely unsubstantiated claims that he hopes may secure him (a) second term."

Rogoff also said Trump has "been in campaign mode for three years."

"Is there any speech of his that's not a preelection speech?" Rogoff added.

Nonetheless, other Davos participants interpreted the address as a strong message from the U.S. commander-in-chief.

"It was a speech of a country's leader," Ukrainian politician Vadym Novynskyi told CNBC. "This is actually what we lack in Ukraine. ... So our country would demonstrate great results like Mr. Trump has just demonstrated."

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