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Diplomacy

Donald Trump will likely be a no-show at Bloomberg leaders forum that promotes global trade

The elite attendees at the invitation-only event, timed to coincide with the UN General Assembly meeting, will include politicians and CEOs, but the US president is expected to be absent

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2018, 4:02am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2018, 9:47pm

US President Donald Trump is expected to skip a high-level business forum organised by Michael Bloomberg’s charitable group, in what will be a repeat absence at the gathering of global elites.

The goal of the Bloomberg Global Business Forum, which will take place for the second year on September 26 in New York, is to bring governments and companies together to promote global trade at a time when protectionism is on the rise, the organiser said on Monday at Bloomberg headquarters in New York.

Among the approximately 50 state leaders expected to attend are British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron and Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad. Chief executives including China’s Robin Li of Baidu and Xin Zhang of SOHO China are also set to participate.

The forum is timed to coincide with the annual UN General Assembly meeting.

“We extended invitations to every state,” said Maia Johnson, the forum’s head of programming. “In the case of the US, we have invited President Trump. At this point, we don’t expect the president to be at the event.”

A representative at the White House didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Bloomberg moves new forum from China to Singapore after ‘schedule conflict’

Trump’s likely absence will be notable at a time when Bloomberg, the billionaire media executive and former mayor of New York, was reported to be actively considering a campaign for president as a Democrat in 2020, potentially pitting himself against Trump.

In 2016, Bloomberg gave a speech harshly critical of Trump, then the Republican presidential nominee, at the Democratic National Convention.

Trump did not attend the inaugural Bloomberg forum last year either, though several speakers at the 2017 event were critical of his administration’s stances on trade and immigration, climate change and other issues.

In promoting this year’s forum, Bloomberg said on Monday: “We are a country dependent on trade. Washington might be an impediment at the moment,” but over time the US will realise that free trade is essential.

The event is designed to create “ways to alleviate international trade tensions”, he added.

US media mogul Bloomberg vows to stop Trump’s China trade war

Trump’s expected no-show will also be eye-catching as his administration continues to escalate its trade fight with China. The White House is close to moving forward with 10 per cent tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods this week in addition to the US$50 billion in duties that became effective in July. Trump has also threatened China with more tariffs on another US$267 billion in imports.

If the tariffs on US$200 billion goods are implemented, “we will go from a trade skirmish using rubber bullets to a trade war with real weapons”, Bloomberg chief economist Tom Orlik said on Monday.

“All economic arguments will point to de-escalation,” Orlik said. “But Washington’s thinking is not based on that logic. So the base case here is to expect the situation to deteriorate.”

In a Twitter message on Monday, Trump said: “Tariffs have put the US in a very strong bargaining position, with Billions of Dollars, and Jobs, flowing into our Country – and yet cost increases have thus far been almost unnoticeable. If countries will not make fair deals with us, they will be ‘Tariffed!’”

Orlik acknowledged the strong US economy and pointed to a combination of tax cuts, looser regulations and the rebound from the financial crisis as reasons for growth.

But “the current administration inherited [the strengthening economy] and continued to benefit from it. The tax cuts we probably don’t need did trigger the short-term growth, but it’s likely at the cost of the long-term sustainability.”

Added Bloomberg: “I do think when businesses and governments work together, there is really no limit of what they can do. Unfortunately, these two groups don’t talk to one another as much as they should, which means both are missing out on opportunities that will benefit everyone.”

Bloomberg has explored running for president as an independent in the past, and has recently said he would again take a look at the possibility after the November midterm elections.

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