US officials have hailed America’s commitment to free and fair trade despite possible retaliation by China over new US import tariffs, as Donald Trump prepares to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and commerce secretary Wilbur Ross spoke to journalists as the gathering of business leaders, globalists, academics and other elites prepares for the US president’s arrival tomorrow.
Mr Trump’s visit has sparked some protests in Switzerland, with demonstrators saying he is not welcome because of his controversial tweets, his "America First" stance, and trade policies which have caused controversy across the world.
Mr Mnuchin 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 had a positive impact abroad.
Mr Mnuchin added: "This is really about not just what’s good for the US, 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.
"We are really here to talk about what we have done."
Mr Ross conceded that China could slap retaliatory tariffs on US products after Mr Trump’s decision this week to impose tariffs on imported solar energy components and large washing machines.
He said: "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.
"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 US troops are now coming to the rampart."
The comments by the Cabinet officials were an appetiser for the main course at Davos this year: Mr Trump’s speech on Friday.
After arriving tomorrow, he will meet Prime Minister Theresa May, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Alain Berset of Switzerland.
He will also attend a reception in his honour and host a dinner for European business executives.
Ahead of his visit, European leaders are due to come out in force and are expected to bring a message to counterbalance Mr 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 Mr Macron, who will make his first appearance at the Davos forum since being elected president, and Mrs Merkel will highlight how the region has turned the corner following years of crisis.
King Felipe VI of Spain is also addressing delegates.