DUBAI: President Donald Trump will be the first White House incumbent for 18 years to attend the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos later this month after he agreed to attend the glittering gathering of the world elite in the Swiss Alpine town.
A statement from the president’s official spokesperson said: “The president welcomes opportunities to advance his America First agenda with world leaders. At this year’s WEF, the president looks forward to promoting his policies to strengthen American businesses, American industries and American workers.”
The US leader’s stance of “America First” on economic issues is often regarded as at odds with the globalist, free-market emphasis espoused by business and world leaders at Davos, while his populist political ambition to “drain the swamp” of corporatist business interests would appear to run contrary to the establishment elitism on show.
But WEF officials are privately happy that President Trump has accepted an invitation to attend. “There were long discussions with him before he took office, and he and his team are under no illusions that it is simply a gathering of the world’s elite,” said one WEF official who did not want to be named.
“It is an economic forum after all, and you could not imagine he would not want to take that opportunity to talk about issues like his tax reform laws to a global business audience. If he wants to bring investment and jobs to America, Davos is the place to meet the people who are going to do that,” he added.
The Trump presence in Davos will also shine more light on the affairs of the Middle East, insiders believe. “He can be expected to say some things about the region, given the situation in Iran,” said the official.
The US president is due to decide soon whether to continue to waive sanctions against Iran under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal. Iran has been the scene of demonstrations against government policies in recent weeks.
Arabian Gulf countries are preparing to send senior-level teams of delegates to Davos. Saudi Arabia has accepted an invitation on behalf of senior policymakers, in addition to official WEF partners like Saudi Aramco and Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC).
The UAE also traditionally send a top level team of government officials and senior business leaders to Davos.
The theme of WEF 2018 is “creating a shared future in a fractured world.” The New York Times — a committed critic of the president and his policies — said that some members of the president’s team were “befuddled” by his planned trip, coming a year after his team decided not to send a representative to the 2017 gathering.
Last year the US was officially represented by outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden. Trump’s official inauguration took place during the Davos meeting.
The last US president to attend Davos was Bill Clinton, who was at Davos in 2000, and who has been at the WEF in a private capacity a number of times since.
Neither President Bush nor President Obama attended a WEF annual meeting. The WEF official said: “Davos falls at a busy time in American politics, with the State of the Union address from the president coming about the same time.”