DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — Top U.S. officials trumpeted America’s commitment to free and fair trade while bracing for possible retaliation by China over new U.S. import tariffs, ahead of a much-ballyhooed visit by President Donald Trump to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross met with journalists Wednesday as the largest-ever U.S. delegation to the annual Davos gathering of business leaders, globalists, academics and other elites prepared for Trump’s arrival a day later.
Trump’s visit has sparked scattered, small protests in Switzerland and some participants among the 3,000 on hand say he’s not welcome because of his controversial tweets, "America First" tack, and trade policies that have raised hackles abroad.
Mnuchin has brushed off concerns about a possibly tough reception, saying: "We don’t have to worry about this crowd ... Our objective is to be here to interact with important counterparts."
He also said that America’s stronger economic fortunes have a positive impact abroad.
"This is really about not just what’s good for the U.S., but what’s good for the rest of the world as well — given, that we are obviously one of the largest trading partners in the world, one of the largest investment opportunities in the world," Mnuchin said.
"We are really here to talk about what we have done."
Ross, a bit more combative, conceded that China could slap retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products after Trump’s decision this week to impose tariffs on imported solar-energy components and large washing machines.
"In terms of any trade action you take, there’s always potential for retribution or retaliation and that’s up to the Chinese to decide," Ross said.
"Trade wars are fought every single day," he added. "Unfortunately, every single day there are various parties trying to violate the rules, and trying to take unfair advantage of things ... the difference is that U.S. troops are now coming to the rampart."
The comments by the Cabinet officials were but an appetizer for what is shaping up as the main course at Davos this year: Trump’s speech on Friday. After arriving Thursday, he is to meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Alain Berset of Switzerland. He will also attend a reception in his honor and host a dinner for European business executives.
Ahead of his visit, European leaders were due to come out in force and largely expected to bring a message to counterbalance Trump’s policies.
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be the highlights at a time when Europe’s economic revival is one of the main reasons the global economy is powering ahead. Both Macron, who will make his first appearance at the Davos forum since being elected president, and Merkel will trumpet how the region has turned the corner after years of crisis.
King Felipe VI of Spain is also due to address delegates and anything he says about the restive region of Catalonia is likely to be of interest.