President Donald Trump on Tuesday used the annual State of the Union speech to take credit for a strong U.S. economy and trade deals he struck with China and other countries as he looks to boost support ahead of the November election.
The congressional speech also highlighted the tense relations between Trump and the Democratic members of the House of Representatives, which took the historic step to impeach Trump in December in a bid to remove him from office.
Before addressing the joint session of the Congress, Trump ignored House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's handshake offer. Pelosi, for her part, tore up what appeared to be a copy of Trump's remarks behind his back immediately after the president finished his speech.
Trump spent most of his 80 minute-speech recalling his achievements since he took office in 2017.
"The years of economic decay are over. The days of our country being used, taken advantage of, and even scorned by other nations are long behind us," Trump said, adding that the U.S. economy -- with unemployment rate historically low and stock markets soaring -- is "the best it has ever been."
Noting that "unfair trade" was the single biggest reason that he decided to run for presidency, Trump said he confronted "China's massive theft" of American jobs by imposing punitive tariffs and that the strategy has "worked."
In January, the two countries brought a temporary truce to their bruising trade war and signed a so-called phase-one deal in January that includes a U.S. rollback of tariffs imposed on Chinese goods in exchange for Beijing's commitment to make additional purchases of U.S. products and strengthen intellectual property protections.
"For decades, China has taken advantage of the United States, now we have changed that but, at the same time, we have perhaps the best relationship we have ever had with China, including with President Xi (Jinping)," the president said.
On the defense front, he said the United States is getting its allies to help pay their fair share, citing a rise in defense outlays by the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
The United States is also working to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in an effort to end America's longest war, Trump said, adding that "it is also not our function to serve other nations" as a law enforcement agency.
The president also touched on the new coronavirus that has wreaked havoc in China, saying that the United States is working closely with the Chinese government on the issue and he vowed to take all necessary steps to safeguard U.S. citizens.
The speech, themed "The Great American Comeback," took place as the Republican-controlled Senate is poised to acquit the president Wednesday in his impeachment trial.
Trump has been accused by the House Democrats of pressuring a foreign country to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a key political rival, ahead of the presidential election on Nov. 3.