US President Donald Trump speaks during his meeting with Colombian President Iv·n Duque after his speech at the United Nations in New York September 25, 2018. Photo: AFP / Nicholas Kamm
US President Donald Trump speaks during his meeting with Colombian President Iv·n Duque after his speech at the United Nations in New York September 25, 2018. Photo: AFP / Nicholas Kamm

US President Donald Trump addressed the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York Tuesday morning. The last time he took to the podium, he called North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a “Rocket Man” and threatened to “totally destroy” the country in an explosive speech.

In his speech to the multilateral council meeting this year, which lasted around 30 minutes, his tone was more muted and diplomatic. He underscored the need for countries to be sovereign. This should come less from foreign aid and more from countries helping themselves. He emphasized the United States will always do the same and look out for Americans first as well.

Highlights from his speech

Trump was late to the General Assembly on Tuesday morning.

The first person to take to the podium was Brazilian president Michel Temer. Tradition dictated that honor of the first speaker would go to Brazil, as it has since 1955, save for three exceptions.

Then, President Lenín Moreno of Ecuador took the second slot because Trump was delayed.

In Trump’s opening remarks, he boasted about the “extraordinary progress” he has made.

“In less than two years [my] administration has accomplished more than any administration in the history of this country,” Trump said. That sentiment drew laughs from the crowd. “So true,” he affirmed, slightly laughing himself. “Didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s okay.”

America’s domestic wins

Trump focused on what he said made America greater.

He listed how the American stock market is up and healthy, jobless claims are low, and Asian American and African American unemployment numbers are at the lowest levels ever recorded. In manufacturing, a sector Trump has always championed, he boasted that four million new jobs were created due to him passing some of the biggest tax cuts in American history.

He also cited the securing of $700 billion in funding for the military as one of his domestic wins. “The United States is a safer, richer country than it was when I assumed office two years ago,” Trump said.

North Korea

Another victory he said was having “highly productive conversations and meetings” with leaders such as North Korea’s Kim in Singapore. “We have engaged with North Korea to replace the specter of conflict with a bold and new push for peace,” Trump said.

“Missiles and rockets are no longer flying in every direction. Nuclear testing has stopped. Some military facilities are already being dismantled.”

“I would like to thank Chairman Kim for his courage and the steps he has taken,” Trump said, in a conciliatory tone very different from the year before. He added that sanctions will remain until denuclearization occurs.

Middle East

In the Middle East, Trump highlighted co-operation with Gulf countries to identify and track terrorist networks and combat extremism. He specifically recognized the efforts of the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who he said have pledged billions of dollars to aid the people of Syria and Yemen.

“They are pursuing multiple avenues to ending Yemen’s horrible, horrific civil war. Ultimately it is up to the nations of the region to decide what kind of future they want for themselves and their children.”

He then announced greater cooperation between the United States and Middle Eastern countries. “For that reason, the United States is working with the Gulf Cooperation Council, Jordan and Egypt to establish a regional and strategic alliance so that the Middle Eastern nations can advance prosperity, stability, and security across their home region,” he said.

Trump said ISIS had been driven out of Iraq and Syria thanks to United States military partnership in the Middle East and he “will continue to work with friends and allies to deny any radical Islamic terrorists any funding, territory or support.”

“The ongoing tragedy in Syria is heartbreaking. Our shared goals must be the de-escalation of military conflict along with a political solution that honors the will of the Syrian people,” he said, adding: “Rest assured the United States will respond if chemical weapons are deployed by the Assad regime.”


Trump labeled Iran’s political situation as a “corrupt dictatorship” that caused “death and destruction” because the leaders “do not respect their neighbors or borders or the sovereign rights of nations.”

He pointed fingers at Iran’s leaders, saying they “plunder the nation’s resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East.” He said this was the reason for withdrawing from the “horrible” 2015 US-Iran nuclear deal.  


Trump said moving the United States embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and recognizing it as part of Israel was a “significant step” for peace in the Middle East. “We are committed to peace…peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

Rejecting trade relationships that have ‘abused’ America

Without specifically naming China, Trump accused countries of manipulating currencies, dumping goods to gain an “unfair advantage” and causing a US trade deficit of nearly $800 billion dollars a year.

Trump suggested the world trade system is “in dire need of change” and he will start this change through a brand new US-Korea trade deal announced yesterday, and a US-Mexico trade deal announced last month.

Again, he distanced America from multinational organizations. He attacked the World Trade Organisation (WTO) because countries “violate every single principle” on which it is based.” He listed violations such as “relentless product dumping,” “forced technology transfer” and “theft of intellectual property.”

Trump then focused on China, accusing the country of cheating American companies and plundering their wealth. “The way they deal cannot be tolerated,” he said, adding that an America-first policy would include $200 billion in tariffs on Chinese-made goods.

UN Human Rights Council

Trump said he withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council because it was a “grave embarrassment to this institution.”

He also accused the International Criminal Court (ICC) of having “no jurisdiction, no legitimacy, no authority.”

“ICC claims near-universal jurisdiction over the citizens of every country, violating all principles of justice, fairness and due process. We will never surrender America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy,” Trump said.

The United States remained sovereign over these multinational organizations, he said, adding that the US will “reject the ideology of globalism” and “embrace the doctrine of patriotism.”


Trump emphasized the need for countries to be independent of Russia and congratulated Poland for building the Baltic pipeline. He also warned that “Germany will be totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course,” a comment which elicited laughs and smirks from the German delegation.

Migration, foreign aid

The United States will not participate in the new global compact on migration, Trump announced, because “migration should not be governed by an international body unaccountable by our own citizens.”

Again, he emphasized the need for nations to be sovereign and help themselves. He said the United States will help best by helping people “build better futures in their own countries” and “make their countries great again,” instead of focusing on the countries they are migrating to.

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