World

Trump to tout economic progress in address

WASHINGTON: Embattled US President Donald Trump delivers his biggest speech of the year this morning (Singapore time), a State of the Union address designed to sell his economic record to a fiercely divided America.

Mr Trump's maiden State of the Union address - last year, he technically delivered only a speech to Congress - presents a once-in-a-year opportunity for the president to mend his sunken approval ratings.

As many as 40 million people are expected to tune in when Mr Trump speaks for an hour at the House of Representatives from just after 9pm on Tuesday, US eastern time.

"It's a big speech, an important speech," Mr Trump said on Monday, offering a sneak peek of his remarks.

Over the years, the set-piece event has lost some of its influence and Americans are increasingly tuning out shrill political discourse, but it can still mould and direct public debate for weeks to come.

In 94 previous addresses, presidents have described the state of the union as "good," "strong," "sound" or in the case of a glum Gerald Ford, "not good".

Expect no such moderation from the 71-year-old real estate mogul and reality TV star.

Mr Trump is expected to tout a long bull run on Wall Street and improving growth rates, something the White House is calling a "Trump bump" and linking directly to the recent "Trump tax cut."

Since Mr Trump came to office a year ago, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up by around 33 per cent. The unemployment rate has reached a 17-year low.

At a recent address in Davos, Switzerland, Mr Trump told the global great and good that "America is open for business" again.

During his first year in office, Mr Trump has often sought credit, but he has appeared less concerned about widening his appeal - defying norms and sticking to a base-first approach.

Mr Trump's approval rating is languishing around 40 per cent, according to the RealClearPolitics average, and opposition is fierce.

At a donor retreat in the California desert this week, Republican strategists warned that an unpopular president and strong enthusiasm among Democrats could spell doom for the party.

But Mr Trump's speech is also expected to touch on the highly charged issue of migration, where he continues to play firmly to his core supporters.

Two couples whose daughters were murdered by MS-13, a Salvadoran gang, are among those the White House invited to see the State of the Union address first-hand.

His remarks are being crafted in part by aide Stephen Miller, who has for years been known in Washington as a hardliner on immigration and has been pressing for an uncompromising stance.

"For many years, for many, many years, they've been talking immigration, they never got anything done. We're going to get something done, we hope," Mr Trump said. - AFP