State of the Union: US President Donald Trump urges unity, promises to build wall

State of the Union: US President Donald Trump urges unity, promises to build wall

Donald Trump delivers State of the Union speech (1)
US President Donald Trump takes the podium to deliver the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on Feb 5, 2019. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP)

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump used his State of the Union address on Tuesday (Feb 5) to call for a new era of cooperation to break "decades" of political gridlock and unlock America's promise.

"We can make our communities safer, our families stronger, our culture richer, our faith deeper, and our middle class bigger and more prosperous than ever before," Trump said.

"But we must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution - and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good. Together, we can break decades of political stalemate."

Trump took a swipe at the ongoing probe of the president's possible connections to Russia, saying during his State of the Union address that "ridiculous partisan investigations" could slow down America's economic growth.

"An economic miracle is taking place in the United States, and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations," Trump said during his speech.

"If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn't work that way," he added.

President Trump also told Americans that illegal immigration was an urgent national crisis and he vowed to build a border wall as he sought funding for a project rejected by Democrats.

Melania Trump at State of the Union
First Lady Melania Trump (C) is greeted, surrounded by special guests of the President (including Buss Aldrin on L), as she arrives for US President Donald Trump's State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on Feb 5, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Mandel Ngan)

"In the past, most of the people in this room voted for a wall, but the proper wall never got built. I will get it built," Trump said in the highly anticipated speech before a joint session of the US Congress, with his main Democratic adversary, new House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, watching over his shoulder.

"Simply put, walls work and walls save lives. So let's work together, compromise, and reach a deal that will truly make America safe," he said, just 10 days before a deadline for Congress to reach a bipartisan agreement on funding for border security.

Trump also used his address to call for a bipartisan commitment to eradicate AIDS in the United States within a decade.

"Scientific breakthroughs have brought a once-distant dream within reach," Trump said in his annual address to Congress.

"My budget will ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years," he said.

"Together, we will defeat AIDS in America and beyond."

NORTH KOREA SUMMIT

President Trump also confirmed a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam on Feb 27 and 28. 

"As part of a bold new diplomacy, we continue our historic push for peace on the Korean Peninsula. Our hostages have come home, nuclear testing has stopped, and there has not been a missile launch in more than 15 months.

"If I had not been elected President of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea," Trump said.

The President first met Kim on Jun 12 in Singapore and has been eager to hold a second summit in spite of a lack of concrete progress in persuading North Korea to give up a nuclear weapons program that threatens the United States.

Communist-ruled Vietnam, which has good relations with both the United States and North Korea, had been widely touted as the most likely venue for the meeting.

CHINA'S 'THEFT' OF US JOBS

On China, Trump told Congress that Washington's aggressive trade negotiations with Beijing would mean an end to its alleged "theft" of US jobs and wealth.

He also called on China to make the kind of far-reaching "structural" changes to industrial policy that analysts say Beijing is likely to resist.

"We are now making it clear to China that after years of targeting our industries, and stealing our intellectual property, the theft of American jobs and wealth has come to an end," Trump said in his address.

US President Donald Trump delivers the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington,
US President Donald Trump delivers the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 5, 2019 AFP/Doug Mills

Any agreement with Beijing "must include real, structural change to end unfair trade practices," Trump said.

The world's two largest economies have 24 days left in a three-month truce in their trade war before US duty rates are due to rise sharply - an escalation that economists say could be a powerful negative shock to the global economy.

The president also renewed his often-repeated falsehood that China was paying the US import duties on its exports.

"Our Treasury is receiving billions of dollars a month from a country that never gave us a dime," Trump said.

In fact, such duties are paid by US importers, with costs in many cases passed on to consumers.

Trump also lauded signs of US economic strength, including robust job creation and falling unemployment.

"We are considered far and away the hottest economy anywhere in the world," Trump said.

"Unemployment has reached the lowest rate in over half a century."

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office predicts the US economy will slow this year and the year after that as the effects of 2017's sweeping tax overhaul fade.

Source: AFP/mn

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