State of the Union: Trump calls for unity for a stronger America

Republicans stand and applaud as US President Donald Trump delivers his second State of the Union address to a joint session of the US Congress in the House Chamber, on Feb 5, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK - US President Donald Trump, in his second State of the Union (SOTU) address, painted an optimistic vision of a stronger, prosperous America, urging bipartisanship in key legislation and reform to make it happen.

He also announced that he will meet North Korean leader Kim ​Jong Un on Feb 27 and 28 in Vietnam.

"The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican Agenda or a Democrat Agenda. It is the agenda of the American People," he said as he began his speech on Tuesday (Feb 5).

"In the 20th century, America saved freedom, transformed science, and redefined the middle class standard of living for the entire world to see," said Mr Trump.

"Now, we must step boldly and bravely into the next chapter of this Great American Adventure, and we must create a new standard of living for the 21st century."

"Together, we can break decades of political stalemate… bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America's future. The decision is ours to make.

"We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction. Tonight, I ask you to choose greatness."

The President emphasised his administration's "historic" achievements - including an energy revolution which had made the US the number one producer of oil and natural gas in the world; a vigorous economy; and a military that is "the most powerful army on Earth," and "reversing decades of calamitous trade policies".

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He emphasised as well that "we have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens".

"Tonight, I am asking you to defend our very dangerous southern border out of love and devotion to our fellow citizens and to our country. No issue better illustrates the divide between America's working class and America's political class than illegal immigration," he said.

"Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards."

He vowed to build a wall on the border with Mexico to stem illegal immigration, which he described as "an urgent national crisis".

"Simply put, walls work and walls save lives. So let's work together, compromise, and reach a deal that will truly make America safe."

The Republican president is demanding US$5.7 billion (S$7.7 billion) in funding for the border wall, which triggered a historic 35-day partial government shutdown. He urged Democrats and Republicans to find a compromise by a Feb 15 deadline.

On the issue of trade, the president said the priority for the US is to reverse "decades of calamitous trade policies".

He said: "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. Therefore, we recently imposed tariffs on US$250 billion of Chinese goods - and now our Treasury is receiving billions and billions of dollars. But I don't blame China for taking advantage of us - I blame our leaders and representatives for allowing this travesty to happen.

"I have great respect for President Xi, and we are now working on a new trade deal with China. But it must include real, structural change to end unfair trade practices, reduce our chronic trade deficit, and protect American jobs."

Mr Trump urged Congress to pass a draft trade Bill that would give him more powers to raise tariffs.

"Tonight, I am also asking you to pass the United States Reciprocal Trade Act, so that if another country places an unfair tariff on an American product, we can charge them the exact same tariff on the same product that they sell to us."

He also spoke about a "historic push for peace on the Korean Peninsula" and said he will meet Mr Kim for the second time next month, after they held their first summit in Singapore in June.

"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 with potentially millions of people killed. Much work remains to be done, but my relationship with Kim Jong Un is a good one," Mr Trump said.

On the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), he said the US has succeeded in helping to destroy the group: "When I took office, ISIS controlled more than 20,000 square miles in Iraq and Syria. Today, we have liberated virtually all of that territory from the grip of these bloodthirsty killers."

And on Iran, he said: "We will not avert our eyes from a regime that chants Death to America and threatens genocide against the Jewish People."

He also called on the members of Congress to work together to create a better future.

"This is the time to re-ignite the American imagination. This is the time to search for the tallest summit, and set our sights on the brightest star. This is the time to rekindle the bonds of love and loyalty and memory that link us together as citizens, as neighbours, as patriots.

"This is our future - our fate - and our choice to make. I am asking you to choose greatness. No matter the trials we face, no matter the challenges to come, we must go forward together."

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