Trump Meets With British And Israeli Prime Ministers At World Economic Forum

Jan 25, 2018
Originally published on January 26, 2018 10:45 am
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Trump is in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, the annual gathering of the wealthy and the well-intentioned. The White House says Trump is there to persuade foreign business leaders to invest more in the United States. He'll also be pushing back against what he sees as unfair trading practices by other countries. As NPR's Scott Horsley reports, Trump's transactional approach to foreign policy was on display today as he met with other world leaders.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: One of the president's first meetings in Davos was with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who Trump calls a personal friend. It's the first time the two have met since Trump recognized Jerusalem last month as the capital of Israel. Netanyahu praised that decision as well as the U.S. plan to move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

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PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I want to say that this is a historic decision that will be forever etched in the hearts of our people for generations to come.

HORSLEY: Elsewhere in the international community, Trump's move was widely condemned as premature and an impediment to the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. But Trump insists his decision will actually help move that process forward.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The hardest subject they had to talk about was Jerusalem. We took Jerusalem off the table, so we don't have to talk about it anymore. They never got past Jerusalem.

HORSLEY: In fact, the administration still says the final boundaries and status of Jerusalem are subject to negotiation. Palestinians regard East Jerusalem as the capital of their own future state. Palestinian leaders refused to meet with Vice President Pence this past week, a snub that Trump called disrespectful. His administration has already frozen some economic aid to the Palestinians. And today the president threatened to cut off more.

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TRUMP: That money is on the table, and that money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace because I can tell you that Israel does want to make peace. And they're going to have to want to make peace, too, or we're going to have nothing to do with it any longer.

HORSLEY: Trump also met today with British Prime Minister Theresa May for what British newspapers were calling a clear-the-air session. The two leaders have squabbled in the past, but today they downplayed any friction in the transatlantic alliance.

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TRUMP: That was little bit of a false rumor out there. I just wanted to correct it frankly because we have great respect for everything you're doing.

PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: We continue to have a really special relationship between the U.K. and the United States.

HORSLEY: With her country pulling out of the European Union, May is eager to strike a bilateral trade deal with the United States. Trump says he welcomes that. He prefers one-on-one trade negotiations to big, multi-country deals. White House economic adviser Gary Cohn says Trump will discuss his trade philosophy in a speech here in Davos tomorrow.

GARY COHN: We are very open to free, fair, reciprocal trade. If you treat us one way, we will treat you the same way. If you have no tariffs, we will have no tariffs. If you have tariffs, we should have a reciprocal tariff. It's hard to argue against that - that we should treat each other equally.

HORSLEY: Cohn says Trump will also use his speech to encourage more of the movers and shakers here to invest in the United States and hire more American workers.

COHN: He is firmly committed to being the best salesperson United States as to drive economic growth and drive a better quality of life for American citizens.

HORSLEY: Trump hosted a dinner tonight for more than a dozen European business executives, several of whom say they're already planning big, new investments in the United States. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Davos, Switzerland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.