Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 June 2019

Trump's Davos address could shake global elite

The US president faces frosty audience at Swiss gathering

People walk through the resort town of Davos as snow falls ahead of the World Economic Forum's 2018 annual meeting in Switzerland. Photo by AFP
People walk through the resort town of Davos as snow falls ahead of the World Economic Forum's 2018 annual meeting in Switzerland. Photo by AFP

President Donald Trump will address the week-long World Economic Forum in Davos on Friday, despite a disruptive government shut down in the United States that has forced thousands of workers to stay home.

His attendance, with the American economy growing and the stockmarket at all time highs, will be embraced by business chiefs. But African leaders whose countries Mr Trump recently disparaged as "s*** holes" are less likely to applaud.

No one among 340 top political leaders, royalty, academics and heads of international organisations gathering in the Swiss resort will be given a bigger stage than the leader of the free world.

And with 2018 starting in the mire of increasingly complex international politics dominated by wars, cyber threats and tumultuous weather cycles blamed on climate change, the theme of this year's summit is "Creating a shared future in a fractured world".

That may clash with Mr Trump, who is expected to deliver a speech dominated by his isolationist "America First" doctrine, despite the Davos forum's theme and European leaders' anticipated push for more, not less, global cooperation.

"At this year's World Economic Forum, the president looks forward to promoting his policies to strengthen American businesses, American industries, and American workers,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement, underlining the unilateral approach Mr Trump has taken during his first year in office.

Such a message won't resonate with Davos organisers, who issued a vastly contrasting statement: "A shared identity and collective purpose remain elusive despite living in an age of social networks ... changing the situation on the ground requires more responsive governance, but this cannot absolve governments of their regional and global responsibilities."


More on the World Economic Forum:

WEF 2018: Record number of attendees from Middle East in Davos

Davos prepares to welcome world leaders - in pictures

Davos 2018 will be Trump's victory lap and a chance to rub naysayers' noses in his success


Arriving on Thursday, an array of cabinet officials are to travel with Mr Trump. The delegation will include secretary of state Rex Tillerson and treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, as well as secretaries of labour, transportation and energy. Also attending will be Mr Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, a White House adviser.

A White House official said Trump is expected to tout the US economy and measures such as his recent tax overhaul, while criticising trade practices that he considers unfair to the US.

Despite being viewed as the European leader who has most reached out to Mr Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to deliver the strongest vision that runs counter to the US president's unilateralism. Though Mr Macron is not expected to mention Mr Trump explicitly, the content is unlikely to leave doubt for interpretation.

"Despite its formal name, Davos is about more than economics," Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth told the Associated Press.

"So while Trump undoubtedly intends to trumpet US economic progress, many Davos participants will question his racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic rhetoric and policies."

Small protests have already begun in the Swiss resort and they are expected to be followed by others in Zurich on Tuesday and possibly in Davos again on Thursday.

Much like a anti-Trump petition that surfaced in the UK in opposition to Mr Trump visiting London, a Swiss poll has garnered more than 16,000 supporters online, urging him to stay away.

Updated: January 23, 2018 04:39 PM