There was not really anything essentially new in US President Donald Trump’s speech in Davos. But his appearance there highlighted the well-known restrictions of the World Economic Forum, DW’s Andreas Becker writes.There had been massive speculation about the much-anticipated speech of the US president on the final day of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Would he make any concessions? Praise the merits of free trade and multilateral treaties?
After all, participants at the forum had been meeting to help shape a joint future in a fractured world, according to the event’s motto, which was seen by many as a deliberate broadside against Donald Trump’s policy agenda.
But, after his 15-minute address, it was obvious that Trump had said what he’d been saying all along. He lauded his own policy, which he said was behind increased employment and economic expansion in the United States. He emphasized that the interests of his own nation were his top priority, adding that every other national leader in the room would also be well advised to care primarily about their own countries’ interests.
Trump insisted that there would be no free trade without fair accords. Nor did I hear anything new when he talked about migration, North Korea or Iran.
The president just didn’t want to let his audience get distracted from his main message: Invest in the US! He repeatedly encouraged business and finance leaders to seize the opportunity and do more robust business in the United States. By the way, I’ve seen many other heads of state and government touting their countries as good business locations too.
But Trump’s campaign to attract investments is absolutely straightforward and direct. “America is open for business,” he said, mentioning the benefits of tax cuts, cheap energy and less red tape.
World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab praised Trump’s recent tax reform, saying it would provide a boost to the global economy. He didn’t mention that the International Monetary Fund keeps forecasting that this boost will be short-lived, with the resulting budget deficits bound to cause massive problems. Other business leaders also lauded Trump’s tax breaks for companies, including Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser.
Trump’s speech revealed once more what all the debates about wealth inequality, cryptocurrencies, artificial intelligence, science and culture weren’t able to conceal: The annual Davos forum in essence remains a gathering for investors out to do brisk business. All the rest, while being important, only seems to be a sideshow.
Schwab is no doubt right in saying how important multilateral cooperation and accords are in today’s world. Trump’s take — that the world is improving as long as companies are in good shape — is unfit for meeting global challenges such as climate change and controlling migration flows.
There are only casual talks in Davos about such issues, with the tough fight for solutions and agreements taking place at less-glamorous summits at the United Nations and elsewhere.
The World Economic Forum is out to improve the state of the world — or so it says. But it’s definitely not half as important as it wants to make us believe.