The United States is committed to leadership and national interest in a changed geopolitical landscape, said Michael Pompeo, Secretary of State of the United States, in a special session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, which opened Tuesday in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.
“Disruption is a positive development,” asserted Pompeo via video link, with the Lincoln Memorial in the background.
“Over the past few years, all around the world, voters have tuned out politicians and political alliances that they thought weren’t representing their interests,” he opined, citing the examples of Brexit, the rise of the five-star movement in Italy, and the election of Donald Trump.
Populations are questioning whether economic globalization is in their interests, he pointed out, and whether political protection is adequate against threats such as terrorism. “New winds are blowing across the world. Do they signal fair weather, or foreshadow storm?”
“Nations matter,” Pompeo professed. “No international body can stand up for a people as well as their own leaders can. Strong borders are the key to strong nations.”
He stressed the need for “sturdy alliances, built on key principles,” and noted that “economic security is national security,” citing the United States’ GDP and wage growth.
Questioning multilateralism, Pompeo said that global institutions, if they are to be preserved and strengthened, must be “reflective of the world order as it sits today. If they are not, we need to change them, we need to update them, we need to bring them into this century.”
Secretary Pompeo also addressed myriad threats around the world, foregrounding “China’s state-centred economic model, its belligerence toward its neighbours, and its embrace of a totalitarian state at home.”
“There are those who say that superpower conflict between our two countries is inevitable,” he expanded on Sino-US relations. “We don’t see it that way.”
While expressing optimism about the outcomes of trade negotiations, he warned that “the course of the relationship will be determined by the principles that America stands by: free and open seas, the capacity for nations to take their goods around the world, fair and reciprocal trade arrangements.”
“Investments in our two countries should be reciprocal,” he stressed, criticizing IP theft and forced technology transfer – “those aren’t fair arrangements, they’re not reciprocal agreements, they’re not the way free and fair trade ought to be conducted.”
On the DPRK, Pompeo pointed to progress in talks, as well as the upcoming second summit. “There are many steps yet along the way towards achieving the denuclearization that was laid out in Singapore,” he admitted, but “we are determined to work towards achieving that.”
Addressing heightened tension between the US and Russia, he stated: “It’s not the case that we are doomed to a Cold War rivalry.”
Criticizing Russia’s behaviour in Ukraine, and its work to influence elections in the US and elsewhere in the world, Pompeo said, “These aren’t the behaviours of a nation that wants to be part of the international community.”
“We are not destined to be antagonists,” he challenged Russia. “We can do better than that.”
Commenting on the Middle East after his recent state trip to the region, Secretary Pompeo underscored that “America is committed to helping the Middle East to be secure and stable.” He added: “We won’t do this alone. We will need coalitions built out.”
Commenting on the US government shutdown, he said: “Political fights in the United States are a time-honoured tradition … I hope that we get this one resolved in relatively short order.”
Børge Brende, President and Member of the Managing Board of the World Economic Forum, moderated the special session with the US Secretary of State. “The US perspective is critical to shaping the conversation in Davos this week,” he said, “since President Trump is, after all, the person most identified in the world today with questioning the status quo.”
Pompeo, in turn, described President Trump’s campaign as “a call to return America to the principles that made us the most prosperous nation in world history.”