Donald Trump to take 'America First' message to Davos global elite

Trump (above) will discuss his “America First” agenda in person, the White House says.
Trump (above) will discuss his “America First” agenda in person, the White House says.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - President Donald Trump, the populist self-proclaimed champion of trade protection and the forgotten people, plans to go to the annual meeting of world financial and economic elite in Davos, Switzerland, later this month.

The gathering at an Alpine ski resort is a redoubt of globalist, free-trade thinking starkly at odds with Trump's worldview. It is a regular stomping ground for Trump nemeses such as international investor George Soros.

Trump would be the first sitting US president to attend the meeting of bankers, corporate chiefs, academics and investors since Bill Clinton in January 2000.

Anxiety over Trump's "America First" agenda dominated conversation at the World Economic Forum last year, though the incoming US administration eschewed sending any official representatives. 

An aide at the time said participating in the high-powered annual meeting would betray the president's populist movement.

Chinese President Xi Jinping used the forum in 2017 for a global call to reject trade wars and protectionism in a rebuttal to Trump.

The lone attendee from his coterie of advisers last year was hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci, who later served briefly as Trump's communications director.

Last year's conference came the same week of Trump's inauguration and delegates at the time predicted Trump would prove a more pragmatic leader than he suggested on the campaign trail or on Twitter.


 A year before the consensus had been that he would not win the presidency.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump will use the forum to make the case for his policies to the global leaders.

"The President welcomes opportunities to advance his America First agenda with world leaders," Sanders said Tuesday in a statement.

"At this year's World Economic Forum, the President looks forward to promoting his policies to strengthen American businesses, American industries, and American workers."

In a separate statement, Klaus Schwab, the founder of the forum, said Trump would offer a "direct perspective" on the US' priorities and that the president would be accompanied by key Cabinet ministers and US lawmakers.

Trump goes to Davos after backing out of a Pacific Rim trade agreement and repudiating the Paris Climate accord. He is threatening to end the Nafta free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, issue trade sanctions against China and scrap the Iran nuclear deal.

The theme for this year's conference is "Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World."

In an interview on Monday prior to the announcement, Harvard University professor Ken Rogoff identified Trump as a risk to the economic expansion.

"Naming any list of global risks without naming President Trump would mean the list wasn't complete. There's a randomness element that's hard to quantify. There's policy uncertainty," said Rogoff, who is scheduled to be a panelist at Davos this year.

At the same time, the bankers and company bosses present in Switzerland will likely welcome the corporate tax cut Trump recently delivered as well as the surging stock market he likes to take credit for.