The Davos Download22/02/18
Newly appointed Executive Officer Trent Candy reflects on the 2018 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos in this week’s edition of The Take:
Over 400 sessions attended by in excess of 2000 patrons and countless sound bites from the world’s elite reverberated around the world, brings an end to the 48th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.
The theme for the 2018 summit was “creating a shared future in a fractured world,” which was a direct challenge to Donald Trump’s “America First” policy. This built on the previous year’s theme of “responsive and responsible leadership,” which also challenged the emerging protectionist mindset amidst Brexit and the election of Trump.
Whilst not uncommon for heads of state to attend the annual meeting; this year featuring Angela Merkel, Theresa May, Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron, U.S. Presidents have typically declined the invitation. President Trump, however, became the first since Bill Clinton in 2000 to attend Davos. Much was made of the decision to attend, given Trump’s outspoken negative views on globalisation and an increased focus on protectionist policy. Trump tried to toe the line between protectionism and globalism in his comments – putting forth that his “America First” policy “does not mean America alone”. Instead, Trump argued against the exploiting of trade deals, warning countries against unfair trade practices. Both the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron condemned this protectionist approach. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also spoke out against the “worrying trend” towards protectionism.
Feminism was also a hot topic at this year’s forum, with the panel of seven co-chairs consisting entirely of women. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau set the pace by giving a passionate defence of gender equality. He commented on the systemic sexual harassment that exists in government and business and suggested that it is the responsibility of leaders like himself to start change. Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde reinforced this stance by drawing attention to women’s rights, in particular, those in the workplace. Donald Trump once again stood in contrast to the majority at the forum, stating that he doesn’t identify as a feminist.
Climate change was another crowd-drawing topic at the 2018 forum, starting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi describing climate change as the greatest threat to civilization. French President Emmanuel Macron took a firm stance and led the charge in climate change commitments – pledging to shut down all coal-fired power stations by 2021. The need to take action was reinforced by youth leader Risalat Khan, who said it was the responsibility of all world leaders to correct the inaction of previous generations.
In a world that appears as divisive as ever, it seems ironic that all of the world’s major economies are experiencing growth for the first time since 2008. The International Monetary Fund revised its forecasts of global growth from 3.7% to 3.9% – largely attributed to the effects of Donald Trump’s tax package. So while his opinions might always be controversial, he may be right in saying a strong America will lift other countries.