President Donald Trump, the populist self-proclaimed champion of trade protection and the forgotten people, plans to go to the annual meeting of world financial and economic elite in Davos, Switzerland, later this month.
The gathering at a Swiss Alps ski resort is a redoubt of globalist, free-trade thinking starkly at odds with Trump’s worldview. It is a regular stomping ground for Trump nemeses such as international investor George Soros.
Trump would be the first sitting U.S. president to attend the meeting of global economic and financial leaders since Bill Clinton in January 2000.
Anxiety over Trump’s “America First” agenda dominated the conversation at the World Economic Forum last year, though the incoming U.S. administration eschewed sending any official representatives. An administration official at the time said participating in the high-powered annual meeting would betray the president’s populist movement.
Chinese President Xi Jinping used the forum in 2017 for a global call to reject trade wars and protectionism in a rebuttal to Trump.
The lone attendee from his coterie of advisers last year was hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci, who later served briefly as Trump’s communications director.
Last year’s conference came the same week of Trump’s inauguration and delegates at the time predicted Trump would prove a more pragmatic leader than he suggested on the campaign trail or on Twitter.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump will use the forum to make the case for his policies to the global leaders.
“The President welcomes opportunities to advance his America First agenda with world leaders,” Sanders said Jan. 9. “At this year’s World Economic Forum, the President looks forward to promoting his policies to strengthen American businesses, American industries, and American workers.”
Trump goes to Davos after backing out of a Pacific Rim trade agreement and repudiating the Paris Climate accord. He is threatening to end the NAFTA free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, issue trade sanctions against China and scrap the Iran nuclear deal.
The theme for this year’s conference is "Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World.”
In an interview on Jan. 8 prior to the announcement, Harvard University professor Ken Rogoff identified Trump as a risk to the world economic expansion. “Naming any list of global risks without naming President Trump would mean the list wasn’t complete. There’s a randomness element that’s hard to quantify. There’s policy uncertainty,” said Rogoff, who is scheduled to be a panelist at Davos this year.
By Justin Sink