World Elite Meet in Davos to Decry Trump, Wine About Populism, and Bask in Sorrow
Fearful global elite reeling from the rise in populism and Trump election gather at Davos and admit ‘there’s something unprecedented going on and we can’t deal with it’
The World Economic Forum is being held this week in Davos, Switzerland
Xi Jinping will be the first Chinese leader ever to attend the annual get-together
But the CEOs, bankers and politicians are flummoxed by the rise of ‘populism’
Brexit and the victory of Donald Trump have shocked mainstream politicians
By Reuters and Chris Summers For Mailonline
Published: 02:00 EST, 16 January 2017 | Updated: 13:19 EST, 16 January 2017
The global elite are meeting in the Swiss ski resort of Davos this week for their annual shindig but, as Donald Trump waits to be inaugurated as US President, the world’s power-brokers are struggling to come up with answers to the rise of ‘populism’.
The global economy is in better shape than it has been in years, stock markets are booming, the oil prices are on the rise again and the risks of a rapid economic slowdown in China have eased.
But incumbent leaders and established political parties are taking a pounding in opinion polls, especially in Europe, where the National Front’s Marine Le Pen is ahead in the race to become France’s next President.
The political leaders, CEOs and top bankers at the World Economic Forum, which starts tomorrow, have been left scratching their heads.
Moises Naim, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said: ‘There is a consensus that something huge is going on, global and in many respects unprecedented. But we don’t know what the causes are, nor how to deal with it.’
The global financial crisis of 2008/9 and the migrant crisis of 2015/16 exposed the impotence of politicians, deepening public disillusion and pushing people towards populists who offered simple explanations and solutions.
Trump will be inaugurated on Friday, the final day of the forum, and his name is bound to be at the forefront of the attendees’ minds all week.
Last year the consensus at Davos was that Trump had no chance of being nominated, let alone elected.
But then the global elite also never dreamed Britain would vote to leave the European Union.
Both votes, and numerous other mini-shocks around the world, have shaken the principles the WEF attendees have long held dear – globalisation, free trade and multilateralism.
Trump is the poster child for a new strain of virulent populism that is spreading across the developed world and threatening the post-war liberal democratic order.
With elections looming in France, Holland and Germany the nervousness among Davos attendees is palpable. Italy might also go to the polls and in all four countries populist parties are expected to do well against the ‘old order’.
Jean-Marie Guehenno, CEO of the International Crisis Group, said: ‘Regardless of how you view Trump and his positions, his election has led to a deep, deep sense of uncertainty and that will cast a long shadow over Davos.’
Among the debate topics at Davos are ‘Politics of Fear or Rebellion of the Forgotten?’, ‘Squeezed and Angry: How to Fix the Middle Class Crisis’ and ‘Tolerance at the Tipping Point?’
The star attraction will be Xi Jinping, the first Chinese president ever to attend Davos.
His presence is being seen as a sign of Beijing’s growing weight in the world at a time when Trump is promising a more insular ‘America first’ approach and Europe is pre-occupied with its own troubles, from Brexit to terrorism.
British Prime Minister Theresa May, taking a break from the headache of preparing for Brexit, will also be in Switzerland.
But Germany’s Angela Merkel, a Davos regular, will be absent as she seeks to fight off the challenge from the populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, which seeks to paint her as a politician in cahoots with Big Business at the expense of the ordinary herr or frau.