US president Donald Trump’s hotly anticipated arrival at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Swiss Alps this week could be scuppered by political sparring at home, as the US Congress struggles to negotiate an end to a government shutdown.
Trump is slated to deliver a key note speech touting his controversial brand of populism and trade protectionism at a confab of global elites, but his attendance hangs in the balance due to the failure of Democrats and Republicans to reach a deal on a budget bill to bankroll public services.
If the on-going government shutdown is not resolved early this week, it’s unlikely that Trump will make his appearance in Davos on Thursday according to Adam Alden, a Washington DC based senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations.
The political optics of the president going to Davos while the US government is shuttered would not be good. So I think he’ll cancel it if they can’t sort that out.
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If Trump does join the coterie of bankers, business leaders, and heads of state at this year’s gathering, he is likely to deliver a hard line message on trade, striking a similar note to the tough stance he took on China on his Asia tour in November.
Trump warned the country the US will no longer submit to a “predatory” trade policy by Beijing — part of the his America First policy aimed at safeguarding US industry and jobs.
Trump will no doubt ruffle the well-plumed feathers of attendees with his isolationist rhetoric, Alden added, as Davos has long represented the premier venue for promoting more open trade policies.
Davos is the place where elites talk about new forms of effective global cooperation. Trump does not believe in effective cooperation. He believes in unilateral action by the US, and I think he will emphasise that.
Never missing an opportunity to burnish his own record, Trump is also likely to trumpet the strength of the US economy, pointing to the record highs in the stock market, that he will frame as “good for everybody, good for the united states, and good for the world,” Alden said.
He’ll try to take a bit of a victory lap. He’s a year into his presidency now, for all the very obvious problems, the US economy is doing extremely well. The corporate sector is very happy, and all the big companies and their representatives are there at Davos.
I expect some combination of those two messages, the tough message on trade and some bragging about the progress of the US economy and stock.
UK-US trade talks
The centrepiece of scheduled talks between Trump and UK prime minister Theresa May — who along with French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel are expected to attend the conference — revolve around rumoured US plans to slap a 80 percent duty tariff on Bombardier’s C Series jets after rival Boeing accused Canada of unfairly selling the aircraft at “absurdly low” prices.
The move has strained trade relations between the US, Canada, and the UK — with the Canadian plane maker employing some 4,000 people in Belfast.
On the trade front the fight over Bombardier is going to be a critically important issue in the meeting with the U.K. Prime Minister May. Both the Canadians and the British are very upset about that because of the jobs impact of this Boeing case. The idea of a US-UK trade deal has mooted but its years off. The UK has to resolve the whole dynamics of Brexit first.
Trump is not likely to roll out any big initiatives at Davos, according to Alden.
I think he’ll do that in Washington, most likely at his state of the union address which is coming up in ten days.
Davos death threats
A final decision is yet to be reached on whether Trump will travel to Davos this week, according to White House budget director Mick Mulvaney.
Trump’s arrival in Switzerland is expected to be met by fresh protests on the evening of 23 January in Zürich.
Speculation over his arrival comes as protests erupted in the Swiss capital, Bern last week railing against Trump’s policies and the meeting’s global trade agenda.
Davos police are also investigating protesters after one brandished a placard reading “Kill Trump” at last week’s rally
Meanwhile across the Atlantic protests raged through US cities on Saturday as more than 120,000 people took to the streets to protest the one year anniversary of Trump’s presidency.