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DAVOS

WEF founder: ‘It is absolutely essential to have President Trump with us’

US President Donald Trump's planned visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos next week will likely eclipse the long list of other movers and shakers set to attend.

WEF founder: 'It is absolutely essential to have President Trump with us'
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
The WEF on Tuesday unveiled its lineup for the annual meeting at the luxury Swiss ski resort town, where this year's focus is on how to create “a shared future in a fractured world.”
   
“We need collaborative efforts,” WEF founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab told reporters in Geneva, warning: “There is today a real danger of a collapse of our global systems… It is in our hands to change the state of the world.”
   
But ironically this year's main attraction will be Trump, who is widely blamed for deepening a number of diplomatic rifts and creating new ones with polarizing policy and rhetoric.
   
Since taking office a year ago, he has doubled down on his America First agenda, which stands in stark contrast to the globalization and regulatory integration popular among the Davos crowd.
   
The five-day event kicks off on Monday and is expected to draw some 3,000 political and business elites, including 70 heads of state and government.
 
Trump participation 'essential' 
 
But attention is expected to be focused squarely on Trump, who will be the first sitting US president to attend the meeting since Bill Clinton in 2000. 
   
A string of US presidents have avoided attending the upscale event, fearing a sojourn to a European ski resort would make them look out of touch.
   
But Trump is expected to use the opportunity to thumb his nose at the elites who flock to Davos — a festival of globalism drawing many of his most virulent critics.
   
Trump has sparked alarm over his decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord, as well as his barrage of criticism against the World Trade Organization and various UN agencies.
   
He has also pushed tensions to the boiling point with nuclear-armed North Korea and more recently reportedly branded Haiti, El Salvador and countries across Africa as “shitholes”.
   
Schwab said he was thrilled that the US president would attend, pointing out that a major topic of discussion at Davos would be “the future of global cooperation” on issues like trade, the environment and the fight against terrorism.
   
“It is absolutely essential to have President Trump with us,” he said.
   
The White House has said he will be accompanied by a large delegation, including his son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
   
As something of a counterweight, former US vice president Al Gore and the country's former top diplomat John Kerry, both Democrats, will also be present. 
 
Trump is slated to deliver a speech before the end of the meeting on Friday, WEF said.
   
This year's line-up will also be headlined by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will give the keynote address on Tuesday, and French President Emmanuel Macron, who is scheduled to address the forum on Wednesday.
   
British Prime Minister Theresa May and her Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau will attend, as will Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu.
   
The presidents of Brazil, Colombia, Zimbabwe, Switzerland and the European Commission will also be there, along with the kings of Jordan and Spain.
   
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres will attend, flanked by the heads of the UN agencies for trade, health, labour and human rights, as well as the heads of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
   
The business world will also be well represented, with the leaders of some 1,900 companies expected to be on hand.
 
Women in focus? 
 
A number of Hollywood stars will also be present this year, including movie legend Cate Blanchette.
   
They may be among those addressing the hot-button issues of gender equality and sexual harassment, after accusations against Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein erupted into a global reckoning that has shaken artistic, media and political circles worldwide.
   
Trying to keep in step with the global zeitgeist, WEF organizers boast that the share of women participants this year will be the highest ever at 21 percent.
   
Among them are high-profile co-chairs including IMF chief Christine Lagarde, head of IBM Ginni Rometty and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

DAVOS

Switzerland: 2021 Davos summit shifted to Lucerne in May

The World Economic Forum announced Wednesday that its postponed 2021 Davos summit, themed as "The Great Reset" in the coronavirus crisis, will take place in Lucerne, Switzerland from May 18 to 21.

Switzerland: 2021 Davos summit shifted to Lucerne in May
Participants at the World Economic Forum at Davos in 2020. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The annual gathering of the world's political, economic and business elite traditionally takes place in January against the idyllic snowy backdrop of the Swiss Alpine village of Davos.

But it was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and, charged with remodelling the world economy in the wake of the crisis, will now be held 125 kilometres (75 miles) away in the plush Burgenstock resort overlooking Lake Lucerne.

“The meeting will take place as long as all conditions are in place to guarantee the health and safety of participants and the host community,” WEF spokesman Adrian Monck said in a statement.

“The meeting will focus on the solutions required to address the world's most pressing challenges. “Global leaders will come together to design a common recovery path, to shape 'The Great Reset' in the post-Covid-19 era and rebuild a more cohesive and sustainable society.”

Hybrid format

The WEF announced in June that the 51st edition of its annual meeting would take place in a hybrid format, then in August said it was being delayed for several months to reduce any risks to participants from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Lucerne summit will combine both in-person and virtual elements, with participants linked to a network of around 400 hubs worldwide to incorporate dialogue with the WEF's “young global shapers, to ensure openness and inclusion”, said Monck.

The summit will be preceded during the week of January 25 by digitally-convened high-level “Davos Dialogues”, when global leaders will share their views on the state of the world in 2021.

The novel coronavirus has killed more than 1.04 million people while at least 35.5 million infections have been recorded since the outbreak emerged in China late last year, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.

The pandemic has also triggered a global economic downturn, though the International Monetary Fund said Tuesday that while it is far from over, it will not be as bad as originally feared thanks to a flood of government spending.

The World Trade Organization said likewise, forecasting a global trade contraction of 9.2 percent this year, rather than its previous “optimistic scenario” prediction of 12.9 percent.

But global trade will then grow by only 7.2 percent next year, rather than the previous 21.3-percent estimate issued in April, the WTO added.

Swiss cases rising

The WEF announcement comes as Switzerland announced Wednesday that daily coronavirus cases had jumped over the 1,000-mark for the first time since April 1, when the peak of the pandemic's initial wave began to recede.

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset has urged the country to “get a grip” and be more rigorous in applying the basic measures to control the spread of the virus.

The 2020 edition of the WEF summit, hosted in January just as the world was beginning to become aware of the new coronavirus spreading in China, drew more than 50 heads of state and government to Davos.

It focused on themes of sustainability and finding a more inclusive model for capitalism. US President Donald Trump and Swedish teenage eco-warrior Greta Thunberg were among its top speakers.

The WEF said it aims to be back in Davos for 2022.

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