President Donald Trump will attend the World Economic Forum’s annual conference in Davos, Switzerland on Thursday and Friday. He’s the first U.S. president to attend the gathering of global economists and CEOs since Bill Clinton in 2000.
There, he’ll tell the world America is “open for business,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday, and promote his economic policies, including his recent push for tax reform.
Here’s what we know about the president’s trip to Davos, and what to expect while he’s there.
Trump’s agenda at a glance
A Swiss special police officer stands guard atop the Davos Congress Hotel during the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting on Jan. 24. Photo by Denis Balibouse/Reuters
Trump plans to deliver the keynote address Friday, the closing day of the summit. He will tout Republicans’ recently passed tax cuts, along with job creation and U.S. economic growth, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn told reporters earlier this week. “The president will continue to promote fair economic competition, and will make it clear that there cannot be free and open trade if countries are not held accountable to the rules.”
He also plans to meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May to discuss the conflict in Syria, “ways to address shortcomings” in the Iran nuclear deal and their shared goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, national security adviser H.R. McMaster said.
Trump will confer with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on ways to “reduce Iran’s influence in the Middle East” and with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, current chairman of the African Union, on trade and security, McMaster said.
In addition, the visit gives Trump a chance to seek support for taking on China’s trade policies, said William Reinsch, senior adviser and Scholl chair in international business at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “That’s best done multilaterally, not unilaterally, and this is a chance to start building that coalition.”
Trump has long criticized China’s trade practices and in April authorized U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to look into whether the U.S. should launch a formal investigation into whether China is stealing intellectual property.
At Davos on Wednesday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross spoke bluntly of China’s efforts to become a leader in new technologies, including artificial intelligence, electric cars and computer chips. “That is a direct threat, and that is a direct threat that is being implemented by the technology transfers, by disrespect for intellectual property rights, by commercial espionage, by all kinds of bad things,” he said.
How are Trump’s policies being received?
Panelists at Davos have discussed how stock markets worldwide, particularly in the U.S., are soaring as global economies improve. They’ve spoken highly about Trump’s tax cuts and what new tariffs on solar panels and washing machines might mean.
Cohn touched on the recently announced tariffs at Tuesday’s White House briefing. “We are very open to free, fair, reciprocal trade,” Cohn said. “If you treat us one way, we will treat you the same way. If you have no tariffs, we will have no tariffs. If you have tariffs, we should have a reciprocal tariff. It’s hard to argue against that, that we should treat each other equally. That’s our trade policy. That’s our trade premise. The president is going to keep going on that.”
What are global leaders saying?
Several heads of state at the forum, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have warned against nationalism and populism, and called for more global cooperation. “We believe that isolation won’t help us. We believe we need to cooperate, that protectionism is not the answer,” she said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warns against growing nationalism at the Davos forum on Jan. 24. Photo by Denis Balibouse/Reuters
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi named “protectionism” — or nations focusing on themselves — as one of the three greatest challenges facing the world today. The other two: rapid climate change and terrorism.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who spoke Tuesday, announced a new trade partnership with the members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Now called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, it involves the 11 members of the original TPP deal, minus the U.S. (Shortly after taking office, Trump withdrew from TPP negotiations.)
“The U.S. is pulling back from nothing,” Cohn said. “The U.S. is involved. When the president was out in Asia, he talked about trade agreements and his willingness to have bilateral trade agreements with many of the countries he visited in Asia. And we’re more than willing to have bilateral trade agreements.”
Trump’s “America First” position does not mean “America alone,” Cohn added. “When the United States grows, so does the world.”
It’s generally true that a rising tide lifts all boats, Reinsch said. And the expected response from Davos participants “will be fine, but how are you getting your economic growth. If he attempts to do it by implementing a lot of protectionist policies that reduce imports, it’s hard to see how it will produce global growth.”
Who’s accompanying the president?
Along with Cohn, McMaster and Ross, the president’s contingent includes other Cabinet members and advisers:
Larisa Epatko produced multimedia web features and broadcast reports with a focus on foreign affairs for the PBS NewsHour. She has reported in places such as Jordan, Pakistan, Iraq, Haiti, Sudan, Western Sahara, Guantanamo Bay, China, Vietnam, South Korea, Turkey, Germany and Ireland.
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