Donald Trump

Donald Trump to address World Economic Forum in Davos despite ‘America first’ pledge

The visit - which makes Trump the first president since Bill Clinton to attend Davos - comes after a messy falling-out with ex-aide Steve Bannon, who often mocked such glitzy events

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 January, 2018, 4:30am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 January, 2018, 4:38am

President Donald Trump will address the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, later this month, the White House said on Tuesday. This comes despite the leader’s insistence on pulling back from the globalised economy.

The surprise engagement will place Trump among many of the world’s richest and most influential leaders in government, business and foreign policy.

The January 23-26 gathering will also place Trump deep in the belly of a European-flavoured elite that has openly scorned the American as boorish or reckless.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump will use the forum to talk about his “America First” agenda.

He has described that world view as the sensible prioritising of American interests over those of other nations but his critics call it a retreat from an American global leadership based on democratic principles.

“The President welcomes opportunities to advance his America First agenda with world leaders. At this year’s World Economic Forum, the President looks forward to promoting his policies to strengthen American businesses, American industries, and American workers,” Sanders said in a statement.

Trump would be the first US leader since President Bill Clinton to attend the Davos meeting. Its picturesque location in the Swiss Alps has long attracted some of the world’s wealthiest financiers, but it is also seen as a posh opportunity for leaders to interact with the world’s economic elite.

Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the Davos meeting in 2017, a first for a Chinese leader.

Davos comes as Trump faces crucial decisions about where to take his economic agenda in the second year of his presidency.

The US$1.5 trillion tax overhaul package that Congress passed last year has just gone into effect, something that he has promised will lead to an expansion of the US economy and higher wages.

But he is also mulling a number of controversial trade decisions, including whether to rework or withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), a move that has many world leaders on edge.

Organisers of the glittery gathering in a Swiss mountain town say it is “committed to improving the state of the world.”

Don’t blame globalisation for world’s ills, Xi Jinping tells Davos

This year’s theme is “creating a shared future in a fractured world.”

“The global context has changed dramatically: geostrategic fissures have re-emerged on multiple “fronts with wide-ranging political, economic and social consequences,” the World Economic Forum website said as it announced this year’s meeting.

Realpolitik is no longer just a relic of the cold war. Economic prosperity and social cohesion are not one and the same. The global commons cannot protect or heal itself.”

“Politically, new and divisive narratives are transforming governance,” it says in likely reference to the populist-influenced political shifts that helped propel Trump to victory in 2016 and which are also coursing through European politics.

“Economically, policies are being formulated to preserve the benefits of global integration while limiting shared obligations such as sustainable development, inclusive growth and managing the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the WEF says.

“Socially, citizens yearn for responsive leadership; yet, a collective purpose remains elusive despite ever-expanding social networks. All the while, the social contract between states and their citizens continues to erode.”

The Davos trip comes after Trump had a messy falling out with his former chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, who often ridiculed international gatherings like this one.

Instead, Trump has shown a tendency in recent months to follow the advice of market-focused friends and advisers, which can be seen in last-minute changes he agreed to in the new tax law, which reduced taxes for the wealthy more than many were expecting.

Still, it is unclear whether Trump will show flashes of populism ahead of the midterm elections as he decides how to follow through on trade threats.

Those decisions, which could impact the global flow of steel and aluminium, could come within weeks.