Geneva: US President Donald Trump’s planned visit to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos next week will likely eclipse the long list of other movers and shakers set to attend.
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 polarising 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 globalisation and regulatory integration popular among the Davos crowd.
The five-day event kicks off Monday and is expected to draw some 3,000 political and business elites, including 70 heads of state and government. 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 (WTO) 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 (IMF).
The business world will also be well represented, with the leaders of some 1,900 companies expected to be on hand.
A number of Hollywood stars will also be present this year, including movie legend Cate Blanchett.
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 organisers boast that the share of women participants this year will be the highest ever at 21%. Among them are high-profile co-chairs including IMF chief Christine Lagarde, head of IBM Ginni Rometty and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.