Everything (or nearly) you should know about next week’s 48th World Economic Forum

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From 23 to 26 January 2018, more than 2,500 participants – heads of state and government, presidents of international organizations, CEOs, representatives of civil society, reporters and experts – will meet in Davos for the 48th World Economic Forum (WEF) around the theme “Creating shared future in a fractured world “. While the debate on globalisation and protectionism grows and citizens’ concerns persist, the Davos Forum will allow for in-depth debates and exchanges of views on some of the most pressing international issues.  

According to the founder and executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum Klaus Schwab, Our collective inability to secure inclusive growth and preserve our scarce resources puts multiple global systems at risk simultaneously. Our first response must be to develop new models for cooperation that are not based on narrow interests but on the destiny of humanity as a whole”. Therefore, it appears that the programme will mainly focus on the benefits of economic interdependence, global integration and cooperation.

This way, Klaus Schwab calls for “responsive and responsible leadership” and for leaders to be committed to developing policies respecting citizens’ concerns and aiming at complying four main objectives: “first, to strengthen economic growth; second, to make market-based systems more inclusive; third, to master the Fourth Industrial Revolution; and finally, to reimagine international cooperation.” In order to find concrete answers, a wide range of events will be organized. These discussions will contribute to the achievement of the different agendas established by the WEF, such as the Global Agenda, the Geopolitical Agenda, the Economic Agenda, The Regional Agenda, the Industry and Business Agenda.

I.            What will be discussed?

As reported by the WEF, the programme of the upcoming Davos Forum has been established in such a way as to question and find answers to certain issues that significantly influence global trade as much as social cohesion. Thus, it appears that the current global challenges revolve around three main axes:

  • Political challenges: In recent years, tensions and divides – both at national and international level – seem to have significantly increased. Thus, the Davos Forum will be an opportunity to question how to deal with these phenomena. For example, at the Why is our World Fractured event, participants will discuss how to collectively find new solutions to these issues;
  • Economic challenges: Panellists will discuss the establishment and the effects of recent policies based on the idea of maximising the many benefits of international trade while minimizing common obligations. In this perspective, it will be a question of how to develop policies that incorporate other perspectives, such as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, emerging technologies and sustainable development;
  • Social challenges: As stated by Mr. Schwab, the growing need of citizens for more responsive leadership also has to be taken into account. In this manner, it seems that participants will discuss how to foster dialogue with citizens and face recent divides, as well as the idea of a shared identity and common purpose.
II.          NEW EUROPEANS’ areas of interest

Some of the events organized at the 2018 Davos Forum will address some of areas of interest of the New Europeans. Here is a non-exhaustive list of these events:

  • Policies of support to SMEs and entrepreneurship: In the course of the State of Start-Ups event on 26/01, attendees will underline the essential role of SMEs, especially when it comes to fostering more inclusive growth;
  • Migration and integration policies: The discussion Bridges vs Borders: The Migration Dilemma will be held on 26/01 and will highlight how migration can be the solution to ageing economies as well as a great source of innovation. In this framework, the panellists will discuss how to promote the social and economic integration of migrants;
  • International trade: The New Avenues for Global Trade event will be held on 25/01 and will focus on the question “Is greater protectionism in multiple global capitals clearing the ground for a new trade landscape?”
  • Innovation policies: In the framework of The Digital Economy event, which will be held on 23/01, panellists will examine how industries, institutions and innovation can shape the digital economy.
III.        Highlights

Among the numerous speeches and the wide range of themes that will be covered during the 2018 Davos Forum, here are some highlights:

  • President Donald Trump as the first U.S. President to attend the World Economic forum since Bill Clinton in 2000: Given his strong criticisms of elites during the presidential campaign, the presence of the US President is quite unexpected and his speech will probably be one of the highlights of the Summit. According to Sarah Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, President Trump “looks forward to promoting his policies to strengthen American businesses, American industries and American workers”. As underlined by Le Temps, it will be interesting to analyse the compatibility of the US President’s protectionism with the values promoted by the WEF (e.g. globalisation, fight against global warming);
  • Participation of many EU leaders: Due to President Trump’s protectionist policies, the European Union wants to position itself as the main partner in international trade. As recently stated by the EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström, “With other countries we are now setting the standards and that is also why it is bad for the U.S. to withdraw because there are standards set now and they will be global.” In the same perspective, the intervention of French President Emmanuel Macron is also eagerly awaited. In favour of a reform of the EU and strong defender of the liberal ideas and globalisation, President Macron will most likely address the EU’s position in international trade. In addition, other European leaders – including the Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May – will participate in the Forum.
  • Participation of China represented by Liu He, President Xi Jinping’s financial and economic adviser: In the framework of the 2017 WEF Summit, President Jinping strongly rejected protectionism and stated that no one would “emerge as a winner in a trade war”. Moreover, it will be interesting to analyse Liu He’s intervention in light of IMF First Deputy Managing Director David Lipton’s comments. In the framework of the Asian Financial Forum held in Hong Kong on 15/02, Director Lipton indeed stated that China should “should be willing to loosen trade and investment restrictions if it seeks to play a leading role in globalization”.

In conclusion, the World Economic Forum to be held next week in Davos will be an opportunity for world leaders to reiterate their positions on global trade with the EU most likely defending liberal values and the its position as the main partner in international trade; and the US President promoting its ‘America first policy’ to his global counterparts and defending more protectionist values.

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