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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Davos 2018 diary: Trump provides the final day highlight

The US president is expected to declare America is open for business

US president Donald Trump arrives with his delegation, including secretary of state Rex Tillerson and Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland on January 25, 2018. Fabrice Coffrini / AFP
US president Donald Trump arrives with his delegation, including secretary of state Rex Tillerson and Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland on January 25, 2018. Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

The World Economic Forum’s week-long annual meeting draws to a close on Friday. And while the last day is usually a quieter one in Davos, as delegates head out on Thursday night or Friday morning, this closing day will be different as US president Donald Trump will be giving a keynote speech on Friday afternoon. It will be his first participation in Davos, and only the second by a sitting US president after Bill Clinton in 2000. Mr Trump’s arrival on Thursday afternoon saw a small protest outside the congress centre and big crowds inside wanting to catch a glimpse of him.

It is expected Mr Trump’s speech will be about "America First", the slogan that won him the US election, but not "America alone". Several US participants said they expect him to announce the US open for business. Yet it is unlikely that the theme of this year’s WEF annual meeting, "Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World", will feature much in Mr Trump’s speech. In any event, his mere presence shows Mr Trump establishing himself as part of the elite he disparaged previously.

In contrast, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and Argentinian president Mauricio Macri urged international co-operation. As Canada gets ready to host the G7 summit this year and Argentina the G20, both leaders have used Davos as a platform to lay down their vision for an open approach to trade and emphasise the need to tackle climate change.

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Agile government was another theme that was discussed by politicians and executives this week. What is clear is that the fourth industrial revolution, in addition to societal and economic changes, demands agility and innovation in government. Many of the participants at Davos will be heading to Dubai for the World Government Summit next month to explore these themes.

This year had the largest official Arab presence, including large delegations from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon and Bahrain. And there was one Syrian participant who got much attention. Feras Fayyad, the Syrian writer and director of the documentary Last Men in Aleppo was present in Davos for a screening of his film. His film's nomination for an Oscar was announced while the director was in Davos, a recognition that he said meant more people can understand Syria and an opportunity for some to discuss the shame and guilt of having the world turn away from its duties to fellow humans suffering the fate of war.