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                3rd LD Writethru: Trump touts economic gains as economy slows

                Source: Xinhua| 2020-02-05 15:13:33|Editor: xuxin
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                WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 (Xinhua) -- As the U.S. economy slows, President Donald Trump on Tuesday night touted what he called "America's great economic success" in his third State of the Union address, highlighting job growth and trade development.

                In his speech to a joint session of Congress in the House chamber, Trump said his government "reversed failed economic policies" of the previous administration and revived the U.S. economy by slashing regulations, enacting tax cuts, and reaching "fair and reciprocal" trade deals.

                In remarks mostly focusing on his economic policies, Trump claimed "we have rejected the downsizing of America's destiny."

                "We are moving forward at a pace that was unimaginable just a short time ago, and we are never going back!" he said.

                While the U.S. president said his administration is restoring the nation's manufacturing might, data from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), a leading global supply management institute, showed U.S. manufacturing activity contracted for five consecutive months before inching back into expansion in January. The Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) averaged 51.2 during the 12 months of last year, the lowest in a decade.

                Trump also emphasized the importance of new trade deals, including the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which he signed into law last week, and the U.S.-China phase-one economic and trade agreement, signed in mid-January.

                U.S. economic growth slowed to 2.3 percent in 2019, down from 2.9 percent in 2018, primarily reflecting decelerations in business investment and household consumption, and a downturn in exports, according to a recent report from the U.S. Commerce Department.

                "Business investment declined for the third consecutive quarter as weak growth abroad and tariffs took a toll on business planning," wrote Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, a major accounting firm, adding that orders for new equipment shrank in December, which suggested that "weakness will continue."

                Paul Krugman, a Nobel laureate and New York Times columnist, tweeted that the U.S. economy is growing at the cost of a ballooning deficit.

                "Trump's deficitpalooza is giving the economy as much stimulus now as it was getting in 2012, when the unemployment rate was 8 percent," Krugman said. The federal budget deficit surpassed 1 trillion U.S. dollars in 2019, the highest in seven years.

                In the address, the U.S. president also said over 500 miles (800 km) of border wall along the nation's southern border with Mexico will be "fully completed by early next year," noting that his administration has undertaken an "unprecedented" effort to secure the border.

                "We are working on legislation to replace our outdated and randomized immigration system with one based on merit," said the president, who has advocated passing legislation to prohibit free government healthcare for illegal immigrates.

                Trump said that his administration is working to end the war in Afghanistan, noting that the U.S. military is making progress there, and peace talks with the Taliban militant group are underway.

                "We are working to finally end America's longest war and bring our troops back home," Trump said. "It is also not our function to serve other nations as a law enforcement agency," he added.

                The United States maintains roughly 13,000 troops in Afghanistan, which mostly provide training to local Afghan forces while also conducting counterterrorism operations.

                The State of the Union address came in the middle of a Senate trial of Trump's impeachment. The House, controlled by Democrats, impeached the president in December last year for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, charges that the White House has refuted.

                House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who orchestrated the chamber's impeachment drive against Trump and is seated behind him during the address, reached out to shake his hand, which the president ignored. She tore up what appeared to be a copy of the president's speech at the end.

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