Abe, Merkel top the bill for 'Globalisation 4.0' at World Economic Forum in Davos

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of the Asem leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, on Oct 18, 2018.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of the Asem leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, on Oct 18, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

ZURICH (BLOOMBERG) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will top the list of leaders attending the World Economic Forum's annual meeting next week after the withdrawal of President Donald Trump.

The US President canceled his trip to the annual gathering of global financial elites because of the government shutdown, which is now the longest in the nation's history. The US delegation will include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Brazil's recently sworn-in President Jair Bolsonaro is another one of the 60 heads of state and government expected in the Swiss mountain town of Davos for the event that runs from Jan 22 to Jan 25 under the theme "Globalisation 4.0".

They gather at a time when investors are questioning the outlook for the world economy and increasingly linking the prospects for its expansion to factors such as trade wars and Brexit.

On hand to provide insights on such hot-button matters will be International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde and World Trade Organisation director-general Roberto Azevedo. US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Turkey's Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu and Canada's Chrystia Freeland will share their thoughts on the geopolitical outlook.

The election of Mr Trump in the US and Britain's departure from the European Union are events that have been attributed to a renaissance of populism, a backlash by those who don't see themselves as the beneficiaries of the technology-driven economic expansion of recent years.

While globalisation has been of net benefit to people, "we have to look after the losers, those that were left behind", said Mr Klaus Schwab, founder of the Forum, at a press conference in Geneva on Tuesday (Jan 15), introducing the 2019 programme. "We have to define a new approach of globalisation, which is more inclusive."

 
 
 
 

In that vein, a panel entitled "More than GDP" will feature New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Mr Angel Gurria, secretary general at Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. There will also be a discussion about redesigning social safety nets.

Forum regulars like U2 frontman Bono are also expected, as is Britain's Prince William. So are Goldman Sachs Group chief executive officer David Solomon and hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio.

Architecture - not of buildings but of societies - is one of the themes of the 2019 event.

One of the first sessions will be a discussion of the evolving business environment with Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan and Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone Group LP early on Jan 22.

Ms Lagarde is due to take up the theme - building a more equitable world order - on the forum's last day, chairing a panel with Britain's Chancellor Philip Hammond and Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda.