The Latest: Trump tells Thunberg to put her focus elsewhere

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DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) – The Latest on the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (all times local):

1:55 p.m.

President Donald Trump says 17-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg should not focus on the United States, but other continents that are spewing fumes into the atmosphere.

Trump and Thunberg have clashed in the past and did so again this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Trump said Wednesday that he would have loved to have seen the Swedish activist’s speech at the gathering, but also said – without mentioning her name – that some people are “unrealistic” about climate change and seek changes that would interrupt people trying to live their lives.

He noted that other countries have dumped tons of garbage into the Pacific Ocean and is now floating toward the United States. Trump says Thunberg should focus on that.

On Tuesday he described climate activists as “perennial prophets of doom.”

Thunberg, who shot to fame a year ago by staging a regular strike at her school and sparked a global environmental movement, wasted no time in coming back at Trump, saying that she and her supporters will not give up.

He announced that the U.S. will join in an initiative to plant 1 trillion trees worldwide. Thunberg says that’s nice, but it’s “nowhere near enough.”

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1:05 p.m.

President Donald Trump says U.S. economic growth is the buzz at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, but reporters are focused on the impeachment trial underway back in Washington.

Trump held a news conference Wednesday before leaving the gathering of top business and political leaders where he rattled off a long list of positive economic statistics, and then took questions about his impeachment.

He says he’ll leave it to the Senate as to whether there will be witnesses called during his impeachment trial.

Trump says in the run-up to the trial, the Democrats talked about the “tremendous case” they had, but “they don’t have a case.”

He again called the impeachment a “hoax” and a “witch hunt” that started right after he was elected.

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12:30 p.m.

The president of the European Union’s executive says the bloc’s move toward a climate neutral continent by 2050 will force its trading partners to put in extra effort if they want to do business with the EU.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the World Economic Forum in Davos that “there is no point in only reducing greenhouse gas emissions at home, if we increase the import of CO2 from abroad. It is not only a climate issue; it is also an issue of fairness.”

Von der Leyen wants to avoid a situation where EU countries reduce emissions as part of their ambition to make the continent carbon neutral by 2050, but at the same time import CO2 imbedded in goods.

She said in its attempt to pursue a cleaner and climate neutral economy, the EU also needs to protect its industries and workers. She says a carbon border tax on imports could be necessary, but she would instead prefer that the bloc’s global partners match the EU commitments.

French President Emmanuel Macron has been promoting the idea of a carbon tax at the bloc’s borders for countries that did not sign up to the 2015 Paris climate deal agreement and do not regulate CO2 emissions as strictly as the EU does.

12:10 p.m.

A French government official says that France agreed to delay implementation of its tech tax until November as a gesture of goodwill ahead of Wednesday’s discussions in exchange for an American promise to drop threats of new tariffs.

The official says France is not shelving or suspending the tax, and that digital companies will still pay some kind of tax on their 2020 French revenues. The official says it will either be the French tax or a new international one brokered by the OECD.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because a public announcement has not been made yet on the move.

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12 noon

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin downplayed talk that trade discussions with China will be wrapped up by this November’s U.S. presidential election.

Speaking at a panel at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos, Mnuchin said there is “no deadline” to the so-called Phase 2 discussions.

Last week, the U.S. and China signed off a Phase 1 agreement, which eases some sanctions on China while Beijing has agreed to step up its purchases of U.S. farm products and other goods. However, many issues remain unresolved and tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump over the past couple of years remain in place.

Mnuchin said “we couldn’t be more pleased” with both the Phase 1 agreement and the conclusion of trade negotiations with Canada and Mexico. He said “a lot of important issues” were dealt with in Phase 1, which “gives us a great advantage in Phase 2.”

He said there was “no question” that tariffs and the threat of tariffs have been a “big incentive” in the trade agreements.

He also hinted that a grand trade agreement with China may not come in one go and that there may be a series of smaller agreements.

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11:35 a.m.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Wednesday Russia has the responsibility to halt the Syrian government’s attacks a day after airstrikes on rebel-held parts of northwestern Syria killed at least 17 people.

The airstrikes and shelling were part of a Syrian government offensive on the northwestern province of Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in the country, and the rebel-held parts of nearby Aleppo province.

The strikes came amid continued violence despite a new cessation of hostilities agreement between Russia and Turkey went into effect earlier this month.

“Russia is the guarantor of the (Syrian) regime,” Cavusoglu told a panel at the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland. “Russia is obliged to stop this aggression.”

The government offensive has displaced hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom fled to areas closer to the border with Turkey. Dozens of fighters have been killed on both sides in recent days as clashes intensified.

Cavusoglu said: “The situation in Idlib is our main focus because the regime has been increasing its aggression… Already, 400,000 people have been displaced and moved toward our border.”

The Turkish minister said Turkey will continue to work with Russia in Syria, despite standing on opposing sides of the conflict.

Idlib province is dominated by al-Qaida-linked militants. It’s also home to 3 million civilians and the United Nations has warned of the growing risk of a humanitarian catastrophe along the Turkish border.

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9:55 a.m.

Hopes are rising that a breakthrough in discussions on how to tax digital companies will emerge at the World Economic Forum on Wednesday.

José Ángel Gurría, the secretary general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development group of leading industrial nations, told The Associated Press that he expects there to be a solution as “there is no plan B.”

The OECD has been seeking to come up with a framework that would allow France to suspend its plans to tax companies like Amazon and Facebook. In return, the U.S. is expected to agree to a multilateral approach.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are both set to meet in the gathering of the elites in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

“We just need to continue to work on the multilateral solution and then deliver an option to the whole of the world, produced by the whole of the world and therefore hopefully that is accepted by the whole of the world,” Gurría said.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Ivanka Trump, right, arrive at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. The 50th annual meeting of the forum is taking place in Davos from Jan. 21 until Jan. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
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