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Trump Anxiety, Harassment Fallout to Dominate Annual Davos Forum

Trump Anxiety, Harassment Fallout to Dominate Annual Davos Forum

The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, next week will host its usual line-up of industry titans, globe-trotting financiers and politicians of all ideological hues. The gathering is still almost certain to be dominated by just one of them: Donald J. Trump.

The most controversial American president in decades will be the first U.S. leader since Bill Clinton to attend the world’s premier economic summit, arriving on Air Force One with a big delegation in tow including Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn. Embattled by persistent questions about his fitness for office, the Davos stage — where Trump will deliver a speech on the final day of the forum — provides him with an opportunity to advocate for his “America First” economic and foreign policies in front of one of the world’s most influential audiences.

The WEF’s organizers will be hoping Trump’s presence isn’t an undue distraction from the gathering’s other themes, chief among them the need to reckon with sexual harassment and the persistence of inequality between genders. This year’s event will be presided over for the first time by an all-female group of co-chairs that includes International Business Machines Corp. Chief Executive Officer Ginni Rometty, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Fabiola Gianotti, the head of the CERN center for nuclear research.

The recent wave of harassment allegations that has roiled entertainment, politics and the media will be a clear focus on the agenda, with at least three sessions tackling the issue. Microsoft Corp. executive Peggy Johnson and Maryam Monsef, Canada’s minister for the status of women, will headline a Jan. 23 panel on “Gender, Power, and Stemming Sexual Harassment.” A Jan. 24 session on “Shaking Up Beliefs and Behaviors about Gender” will include Carolyn Tastad, the group president for North America at Procter & Gamble Co. — one of the world’s largest advertisers.

Global Elite

Some highlights from the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos

Source: WEF

The WEF, whose attendees naturally represent the winners of globalization, has long grappled with how to address inequality stemming from the 21st century’s knowledge-intensive economy. With artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies threatening to make widening categories of human labor obsolete, further polarization from the so-called fourth industrial revolution is a growing dilemma. The long-term impacts of AI will be a theme of one of the forum’s marquee one-on-one events, a Jan. 24 session in which WEF founder Klaus Schwab interviews Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Yet for all the WEF’s future-focused programming, the assembled investors, businesspeople and politicians are likely to be most focused on more immediate questions of economics and geopolitics. For clues, they’ll be able to attend set-piece speeches from a wide range of world leaders. 

French President Emmanuel Macron will make his pitch on transforming the second-largest economy in the euro area on Jan. 24. The next day, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May will urge investors not to give up on Britain amid the bruising debate over the country’s exit from the European Union. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will give one of the most closely-watched addresses on Jan. 23, when he will seek to position his country as a rival to China as the leading economic power of the emerging world.

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