US President Donald Trump will focus on key issues like immigration, national security and trade and call for unity in a hugely divided Congress in his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday as he begins the second half of his first term in the White House. Contrary to his aggressive tweets and his frequent lashing out against the opposition Democratic leadership, Trump intends to portray a picture of national unity in resolving the challenges being faced by the country, officials familiar with preparations for the State of the Union Address said on Monday.
The annual State of the Union address is the keynote prime time speech by the president to the Congress in which he sets out his legislative agenda and national priorities for the next year and highlights his achievements to the American people. The speech on Tuesday night (7:30 am IST on Wednesday) will be Trump's third to a Joint Session of Congress. His initial appearance on February 28, 2017 was weeks after his inauguration on January 20, and not considered a formal State of the Union.
While the theme of the address is "Choosing Greatness", the president's top aides say Trump will respect tradition in his speech. He will call for unity as predecessors have done in the century since the custom of in-person State of the Union addresses was revived by President Woodrow Wilson. He will call for "an end to the politics of resistance and retribution," a senior aide said.
"Together we can break decades of political stalemate. We can 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," Trump will say in his address, according to the excerpts of the speech. The president and the Democrats had a record 35-day standoff with the Democrats led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over his proposed controversial wall along the US-Mexico border, which shut down the government and postponed the address which was earlier scheduled on January 29.
And watching Trump from the House will be 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including Kamala Harris, the first Indian-origin Senator and Tusli Gabbard, the first Hindu lawmaker in the US Congress. China, which is being considered as a major challenge for the United States, is expected to figure prominently in his address, which could last between 60 and 90 minutes.
The US and China have been locked in an escalating trade spat since early 2018, raising import tariffs on each other's goods. Last year, Trump imposed tariff hikes of up to 25 per cent on USD 250 billion of Chinese goods. The move prompted China to increase tariffs on USD 110 billion of American goods.
He will update Congress on the upcoming second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, developments in Venezuela and withdrawal of troops from Syria and Afghanistan. "In his address, the president will cast an inspiring vision of American greatness. He will outline a policy agenda that both parties can rally behind to achieve this vision," a senior administration official said.
Safe and legal immigration system; protecting American workers, rebuilding America with infrastructure; lowering the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs; and protecting America's national security, are expected to be the major topics in his speech. "One can expect the president describing his vision for a safe and legal immigration system," the official said adding that he will reaffirm his determination to stop illegal immigration, human trafficking, and the flow of drugs and crime.
Trump will update the Congress on his fight to protect American workers who have been hurt by decades of flawed trade deals, the official said. "The President will update Congress on our trading relationship with China. He will also call on Congress to replace the NAFTA disaster by approving the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement," said the official.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is an agreement signed by Canada, Mexico, and the United States, creating a trilateral trade bloc in North America. In addition, the president will call on Congress to pass the United States Reciprocal Trade Act, which if signed into law could have consequences on bilateral trade with India.
The Reciprocal Trade Act would give him authority to levy tariffs equal to those of a foreign country on a particular product if that country's tariffs are determined to be significantly lower than those charged by the United States. It would also allow Trump to take into account non-tariff barriers when determining such tariffs.
In terms of protecting America's national security, Trump will update Congress on his diplomatic and military efforts around the world, and reaffirm his determination to protect American interests, and bring to an end to endless foreign wars, said the senior administration official familiar with the draft of the president's speech. Trump in his speech is expected to propose policies to expand prosperity and make possible an amazing quality of life for all Americans.
"And then, having restored America's leadership around the world, he will cast a vision for greater security and peace," the official said. The last two times he spoke before Congress, Trump tried to provide a unifying, bipartisan, optimistic tone, the official noted stating that he will be striving to do the same this year.
(With inputs from agencies.)