Before the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland was set to open on January 22, the city was engulfed in a massive snowstorm. But perhaps a bigger storm was set to land on January 25 when US President Donald Trump arrives and gives a speech the following day to this congregation headed by the world’s most notable globalists.
One year ago, leaders of the European Union were sent into panic mode when Trump was elected the 45th President of the most powerful economy in the world. His surprising, come-from-behind victory helped trigger a wave of nationalist fervour across the world.
It may have boosted the confidence of the nationalist movements that nearly railroaded Angela Merkel’s chance of being re-elected German Chancellor. Victories by nationalist parties in Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary set the tone for what seemed to a shift in global politics and economics.
In what was obviously a pointed slight of the forum, Trump prevented his team from setting foot on Davos last year. However, Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s former Communications Director did show up to defend the President.
It certainly created a tense and contentious atmosphere at a time when globalists thought they were under siege from the nationalists.
But that was one year ago.
At Davos, Trump is hardly the subject of conversation among world leaders. Leading CEOs who have paid the big bucks to socialise with the world’s biggest transnational leaders note the mood at Davos was largely “upbeat”.
Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, shares his opinion that perhaps the world has avoided a larger storm:
“The world has seen a troubling rise in politicians gaining power by fomenting hatred and voters seeking to reject internationalism. But I don’t think it will last. We’re just one small planet and I hope we can get through this without too much bloodshed.”
The globalists, led by Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, say they have more important issues to tackle than Trump and America. These issues include the Internet connectivity, artificial intelligence, the plight of refugees and other global pandemics.
President Macron wasted no time in attacking nationalism:
“We have a situation where people are being told on social media and financial issues that the answer is to do less, to cut our taxes, there is no limit, it’s a race to the bottom.
“If we aren’t able to agree to a standard of international cooperation, we will never convince the middle class, the working class that globalisation is good for them.”
Merkel soon took her turn at the podium and took the opportunity to warn the congregation about the pitfalls of nationalism:
“We are seeing nationalism, populism and in a lot of countries a polarised atmosphere. We believe that isolation won’t help us. We believe we need to cooperate, that protectionism is not the answer. Have we really learned from history or haven’t we?”
Last year, President Xi Jinping played the role of visionary and capitalised on Trump’s absence to declare that the United States was in retreat and that China was ready to assume the role of world leader.
The consensus in Davos is that Trump will use his speech to respond to Xi’s speech and resume tough talk on China’s predatory lending practices, unjust claims on disputed islands and seeming inaction toward North Korea.
He may also seek to re-establish the United States supremacy by highlighting his administration’s recent announcement of tariffs on Chinese solar panels and washing machines.