Trump takes on China, Iran and social media in UN speech

NEW YORK — President Donald Trump delivered remarks taking on global trade, Iran and illegal immigration at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday morning.

His speech in front of an audience that has been hostile in years past hit on common themes of his presidency. Trump said the US wants to end the “grave economic injustice” of unfair trading practices, specifically citing unfair trade practices by China. He warned Iran he would tighten sanctions if the country continues provocative behavior in the Middle East. And he used global crises to reiterate his opposition to socialism, something he has accused Democrats of encouraging.

“For decades the international trading system has been easily exploited by nations acting in very bad faith,” Trump said, singling out China, a country he has sought but so far failed to secure a trade deal with.

“Not only has China declined to adopt promised reforms, it has embraced an economic model dependent on massive market barriers, heavy state subsidies, currency manipulation, product dumping, forced technology transfers and the theft of intellectual property and also trade secrets on a grand scale,” Trump said.

“I will not accept a bad deal with the American people,” he added.

Turning to an issue of global security, Trump said “all nations have a duty to act” in combating Iran’s influence. Citing an attack on Saudi oil facilities that he pinned on Iran, Trump noted new sanctions on the country’s central bank.

“No responsible government should subsidize Iran’s bloodlust,” Trump said during his speech to the General Assembly. “As long as Iran’s menacing behavior continues, sanctions will not be lifted. They will be tightened.”

“Iran’s leaders will have turned a proud nation into another cautionary tale of what happens when a ruling class abandons its people and embarks upon a crusade for personal power and riches,” he said.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrived in New York Monday afternoon.

Trump has repeatedly expressed openness to meeting with Rouhani in New York this week, but said Monday that nothing was on the schedule.

Trump also brought his hardline pitch on border security to his speech, connecting his usual message to the cause of human rights by telling attendees that “when you undermine border security you are undermining human rights and human dignity.”

“(T)heir youth is not taken care of and human capital goes to waste. The receiving countries are overburdened with more migrants than they can responsibly accept and the migrants themselves are exploited, assaulted, and abused by vicious coyotes,” Trump added.

He also denounced “a growing cottage industry of radical activists and non-governmental organizations that promote human smuggling.” He said their policies are “cruel and evil” because they “empower criminal organizations.”

Trump chastised a “permanent political class” that is “overly disdainful,” claiming they — along with the media, economic institutions and technology companies — were pushing “flat-out assaults on our histories, traditions and values.”

The populist message came as Trump’s administration has questioned social media companies for what it claims are anti-conservative biases. Trump said he was working to ensure all voices are heard.

“A small number of platforms are acquiring immense power, over what we can see and over what we are allowed to say,” he said.

“A free society cannot allow social media giants to silence the voices of the people,” he went on. “And a free people must never, ever be enlisted in the cause of silencing, canceling or blacklisting their own neighbors.”

Trump’s Tuesday speech comes on the heels of his global call to protect freedom of religion at the UN General Assembly, which his aides characterized as the centerpiece of his visit to the conference of world leaders. During the remarks, Trump called for world leaders to stop persecuting people of faith.

The main focus of Monday agenda, however, was a Climate Action Summit featuring remarks from several world leaders. Trump was not slated to attend, but made an unscheduled visit Monday morning, watching Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel speak before departing for the religious freedom event.

Asked why he attended the climate summit, Trump said, “Because I believe in clean air and clean water. Very simple. We have the cleanest air, we have the cleanest water, cleaner that it’s ever been before in our country.”

Trump also held meetings Monday afternoon with the leaders of Pakistan, Poland, New Zealand, Singapore, Egypt and South Korea.

By the end of Tuesday, the President is expected to have met with more than a dozen foreign leaders.

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