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Leaders, politicians, entrepreneurs, and celebrities from all over the world gathered at the 2018 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. On the agenda were several crucial issues in a four-day conference ending Jan. 26, from trade war to the growing popularity of cryptocurrencies.
World leaders anticipated with a mixture of curiosity, wary, and concern U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech for the event. Here is what Trump highlighted at the annual meeting:
America First Does Not Mean America Alone
In his 15-minute speech, the 70-year-old billionaire boasted his economic achievement in his first year as POTUS. He stated that “America is open for business”, introducing a new policy that cuts corporate taxes from 35 percent to 21 percent. Trump is optimistic that the new tax reform, which was hailed by multinational companies, will encourage international business owners to invest in the United States.
The U.S. economy grew 2.3 percent in the first year of Trump’s presidency–up from 1.5 percent growth in 2016 under the Obama administration. In the third quarter of the year, the growth reached the 3 percent target set by the White House.
Trump used the Davos meeting to defend his “America First” slogan, insisting that “America First” does not mean that America does not need other countries to succeed. “When America grows, so does the world,” Trump said in his Davos address. Despite being labeled anti-globalization, Trump stressed that the U.S. supports free trade, but also that it needs to be fair and reciprocal.
Before Trump arrived in Davos on Jan. 25, some world leaders voiced their concern over the U.S.’s apparent turn to protectionist policies.
The WEF forum was the perfect stage for Trump to preach his “America First” derivative. But as a BBC editor said, Trump softened his stance as the real estate mogul packed his speech by saying “we do not want a trade war, but we want fair trade.”
The concern over protectionism could increase as Trump authorizes more import tariffs like the recent import tariff on washing machines and solar panels.
Additionally, Trump also put North Korea on his agenda, slammed Palestine for not being willing to make peace, and attacked media for creating false news about him. The statement about the press was booed by journalists.
Highlights From Other Leaders And Prominent Figures At The WEF
Narendra Modi (India)
Opening the WEF forum, Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised concern over the growing trend against globalization, citing the presence of new barriers affecting free trade. Modi touched other issues including rapid technology development and the environment.
Emmanuel Macron (France)
Speaking at the forum, the 40-year-old president stated that globalization is undergoing a major crisis and that the world should take action to deal with such a challenge.
“Let us not be naive, globalization is going through a major crisis and this challenge needs to be collectively fought by states and civil society in order to find and implement global solutions,” said Macron according to CNBC.
Angela Merkel (Germany)
Angela Merkel said that Germany has its own national problems, referring to prolonged negotiations aimed at forming a coalition government since no political party won the majority of the votes in last September’s poll.
She also frankly criticized isolationism and protectionism for not creating solutions, saying that instead of protectionism, multilateral solutions were needed to tackle the world’s challenges.
George Soros (Hungary/America)
Billionaire investor George Soros warned that the U.S. is preparing for a nuclear war with North Korea since the Trump administration does not want to accept North Korea’s emergence as a world leader in nuclear power.
The 87-year-old man even dubbed the Trump administration as a danger to the world; he believes that Trump is a phenomenon that may be over in 2020, expecting Democrats’ “landslide victory” in the 2018 midterm elections.
Christine Lagarde (France)
The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was one of seven female co-chairs at this year’s meeting. The former French foreign minister discussed the use of digital currencies as a means of payment, stating that bitcoin’s anonymity is vulnerable to crimes such as money laundering and terrorism. Lagarde predicted that the world government will soon formulate regulations on cryptocurrencies to prevent such an issue.
Justin Trudeau (Canada)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for gender equality in all aspects and action to tackle sexual harassment. He showed strong support for The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) despite the fact that Trump decided to withdraw the United States from the free trade agreement.
Every time the World Economic Forum meeting is held, there are always protests. Activists blasted this forum as a mere lip service and without a concrete solution to bring peace and prosperity to the world’s population.
According to Oxfam data, the wealthiest 1 percent of the global population dominated 82 percent of the wealth generated last year, while the poorest half gained nothing at all. Unfortunately, dialogues and meetings at Davos over the past five decades have produced no significant changes to wealth inequality.
The presence of social media and the rapid development of internet technology have helped to increase the amount of fake news circulated online. The latest study from Edelman Trust Barometer Index showed that media is now ranked as the least trusted organization in 22 out of 28 countries surveyed. Nearly seven out of ten respondents worry that people use fake news as a weapon and 59 percent of respondents said it is getting more difficult to tell whether the information they receive is accurate or false.
Trump himself, ironically, mixed facts and fiction in his speech at Davos while selling the U.S. economy’s growth under his presidency. He said that 2.4 million jobs were created since his victory, seeming to forget to mention that Barack Obama contributed to this figure in the last three months before his inauguration. During the first 11 months of Trump’s presidency, only 1.8 million jobs were added.
Despite optimism about the world’s economic growth, IMF Director Lagarde warned that the U.S. tax cut might be a solution only for the short-term, and could potentially lead to inflated asset prices and easy financing, which can pose further risks.
The forum concluded with the world’s “homework” being to create global equality, peace and prosperity as all three still remain on the agenda.