Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that President Trump’s “disruption” of the old world order, combined with Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and the election of a right-wing populist president in Brazil, are good omens for the global economy.
Grounded in Washington due to the partial government shutdown, Mr. Pompeo told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, by video link that voters worldwide “have tuned out politicians and political alliances that they thought weren’t representing their interests.”
“In Ohio, Rio de Janeiro and Rome, people are asking questions that haven’t been asked, or at least haven’t been taken seriously, in a very long time,” Mr. Pompeo said. “New winds are blowing across the world. I’d argue that this disruption is a positive development.”
At a gathering long seen as a summit for the world’s corporate and political globalizing elite, Mr. Pompeo argued that nations and international institutions are awakening to “truths” that Mr. Trump’s election and other political earthquakes brought to prominence.
“Nations matter,” Mr. Pompeo said. “No international body can stand up for a people as well their own leaders can. Strong borders are key to strong nations.”
The government shutdown forced Mr. Trump to scrub plans to travel with a sizable administration delegation to the annual glitzy meeting of corporate titans and world leaders.
At one point, the moderator on stage in Davos asked Mr. Pompeo, “Is America isolated?”
“I don’t think we’re remotely isolated,” Mr. Pompeo replied, his image projected on two large screens.
But others said the U.S. delegation’s absence at the forum was unsettling, a symbol of Mr. Trump’s uneasy fit with the global economic establishment as he pursues a trade war with China, seeks to boost U.S. industries such as coal and manufacturing, and touts his “America first” foreign policy.
“There’s a palpable sense of the U.S.’s absence around this year’s WEF Annual Meeting, which others are trying to fill,” tweeted Robin Niblett, director of the British think tank Chatham House.
Mr. Trump, who made a splash at the conference last year, accused the media of hypocrisy for highlighting his absence.
“Last time I went to Davos, the Fake News said I should not go there,” the president tweeted. “This year, because of the Shutdown, I decided not to go, and the Fake News said I should be there.”
Mr. Pompeo said the U.S. economy has averaged growth of more than 3 percent over the past four quarters due to Mr. Trump’s policies of lower taxes, reduced regulations and revamped trade deals.
“The unleashing of animal spirits has allowed our economy to grow even as the global slowdown looms,” he said. “This economic blueprint, low taxes, streamlined regulation and trade reform, can work for you and your countries as well.”
Mr. Pompeo cited as positive “disruptions” the election of far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (who delivered the keynote address in Davos on Tuesday); the Brexit vote; gains by anti-establishment parties across Europe; and the 2018 electoral comeback of 93-year-old Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
Before Mr. Trump withdrew from the conference, there was speculation that he would meet with a top Chinese official in Davos to help speed along trade negotiations with Beijing. Noting that a Chinese trade delegation was due to visit Washington, Mr. Pompeo said he was “optimistic we will have a good outcome from those conversations.”
But the Financial Times reported later Tuesday that the U.S. has canceled the talks.
British Prime Minister Theresa May, consumed with the Brexit crisis, and French President Emmanuel Macron, facing populist protests at home, also skipped this year’s Davos gathering.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are among the world leaders expected to speak at the Swiss resort Wednesday.
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