President Donald Trump will again attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January, the White House announced on Tuesday. The announcement comes as a mild surprise to many given the president’s objection to globalism and his “America first” rhetoric. The World Economic Forum meets annually in Switzerland to discuss global cooperation.
The theme for this year’s conference is Globalization 4.0: Shaping a global architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Over the years, the World Economic Forum has morphed from an event where the leaders of private companies met to discuss global issues that affected business into a quasi-political conference where leaders of countries can meet on “neutral” ground.
Several members of the administration will also make the trip to Switzerland, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Linda McMahon of the Small Business Administration, along with presidential advisors Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, are also scheduled to attend.
With so many heavy-hitters from the financial sections of the federal government, it would seem that the president is heading to Switzerland to conduct business and not for a ski trip.
If last year’s visit to Davos is any indication, Trump may be there simply to sell America and insist on free and equitable trade agreements. Last year, Trump addressed the conference as a cheerleader for America to global movers and shakers.
“I am here to deliver a simple message: There has never been a better time to hire, to build, to invest and to grow in the United States. America is open for business and we are competitive again.”
The president explained to the businessmen in attendance that his administration was business-friendly owing to tax cuts and regulatory reform. He suggested that investment in America was a good bet.
“We are freeing our businesses and workers so they can thrive and flourish as never before. We are creating an environment that attracts capital, invites investment and rewards production. America is the place to do business — so come to America where you can innovate, create and build.”
Trump also addressed his “America first” positions. “I believe in America. As President of the United States, I will always put America first. Just like the leaders of other countries should put their countries first,” Trump said. “America first does not mean America alone.”
This year’s appearance may be an opportunity for the president to explain his steel and aluminum tariffs, which have contributed to uneasy trade relations with many countries around the world, most notably China. Chinese President Xi Jinping has not yet announced whether he will attend this year’s conference.
China and the United States are currently in the middle of a 90-day “cease fire” in a so-called trade war, which many believe Trump instigated by levying tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods. The “cease fire” was agreed to during the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires earlier this month.
Last year, Trump hinted at those forthcoming actions during his speech at Davos. “We cannot have free and open trade if some countries exploit the system at the expense of others. We support free trade, but it needs to be fair and reciprocal.”
Without naming China specifically, Trump singled out several of China’s most egregious trade practices. “The United States will no longer turn a blind eye to unfair economic practices, including massive intellectual property theft, industrial subsidies and pervasive state-led economic planning.”
On its face, the decision to attend this globalist conference might make “America-firsters” somewhat uneasy. But as Trump’s attendance at the same conference last year showed, acknowledging that the organization exists does not necessarily mean he’s a part of it. As a businessman himself, the business aspect of this conference probably appeals to Trump. The business leaders whom Trump will deal with at the conference are his kind of people.
It’s unlikely that Trump and his team will go to Switzerland to surrender American sovereignty to globalists. As a businessman, Trump understands the value of making an appearance at conferences such as these, if only to let the world know that we’re still here and we’re keeping an eye on things.