By Nitya Chakraborty
The United States President Donald Trump will be attending the annual World Economic Forum conclave at Davos scheduled on January 22 to 26 this year. The WEF is known as the Forum of the world business leaders and the political statesmen who are known as ardent supporters of globalisation and always the American Presidents were welcome in this winter meet at the Alps in Switzerland, as the leaders of the free world. In 2000, the then US President Bill Clinton attended the conclave and mesmerised the delegates through his oration and articulation of globalisation with human face. It is after seventeen years, another US President is attending but this time, the WEF organisers are panicky. The new President is not coming as the acknowledged leader of globalisation, he is set to disrupt whatever the WEF has stood for till now. Trump is sure to draw all the attention of the conclave and set the agenda of his own.
Last year in January 2017, Trump just took over the administration after his unexpected victory in the Presidential elections a few days before the WEF conclave. The WEF leaders including the political elites of the West witnessed the continued attacks by the new President against all the international agreements which were projected as the success of multilateralism. Trump did not attend the Davos meet in 2017 but his views on globalisation and World Trade Organisation were communicated by the US delegates to the conclave. Chinese President Xi Jinping emerged as the new messiah of globalisation at the 2017 summit and the desperate WEF leaders projected him as the alternative who will lead the globalisation process along with western Europe and Russia. Xi took full advantage of the gap left by the US and made a deep impression on the assembled delegates by assuring them that China would be practising all the norms of multilateralism and China is ready to render financial assistance in removing poverty from the poorer nations.
This year in 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is attending but he is not going to get the attention which the Chinese President got last time. This time, US President Donald Trump will hijack the deliberations and in his usual style, he will not let others speak. Donald will try to make Davos a one way street as he is also fond of Frank Sinatra’s that famous song’ This is my way” Previous US officials came to the Davos meet as the main defenders of the free world and global capitalism. They set the tone of discussions but this time, the WEF officials are making desperate efforts to restrict the programme of the US President so that the damage to be caused by Trump’s views, gets limited and the entire programme does not go haywire. The WEF management in its entire history never faced such a situation where its biggest threat is coming from the US president.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Tuesday that President trump looks forward being on hand at the Davos meet to promote his policies to strengthen American business, American industries and American workers., but the WEF sources say that everything Trump has done on a global stage is a kind of anathema to what WEF stands for. Trump is attending Davos after completing one year in office which is marked by the repudiation of all the major agreements and intensification of trade disputes with all the major partners in the west apart from Canada and Mexico. The White House has clearly stated that Trump does not believe in any sham liberalism. He is set to seize the opportunity at Davos in promoting his America First agenda.
In such a milieu at Davos, Indian Prime Minister will be reaching on January 22 and make efforts to hard sell India as an investment destination. He will be addressing the inaugural plenary session of the WEF on January 23 .The PM is hard pressed for time since he has to come back to India to attend the ASEAN meet on January 25 and Republic Day programme on January 26 but in all likelihood, he will make use of the stay to talk to some senior political leaders as also top CEOs of the global companies. Interestingly, just on the eve of the Davos meet, Indian Government had allowed 100 per cent FDI in single brand retail and 49 per cent participation in Air India. The WEF has been lobbying for FDI in retail for long and this has been deliberately done this month to project the Indian PM more FDI savvy at the Davos meet when he meets the business leaders. Prime Minister has little scope for articulating Make in India at the conclave because through his recent policies, the very core of the Make in India has been disrupted. The foreign companies are getting all the advantages at the cost of the public sector enterprises and the domestic companies.
As of now, it is not certain whether any Trump-Modi meeting is possible at the Davos conclave since the Indian PM has to leave on Jan 23 night itself, but if they happen to meet, there will be divergence of views on the Davos agenda. Trump is firm on his America First policy and he implements it defying all opposition. But our Indian PM has no firm policy. He has made a mess of Make in India and his FDI policy is not helping in generating jobs. His economic policies are leading to jobless stunted growth.PM will be interacting with the members of the International Business Council consisting of 120 top chief executives of major transnational corporations across all sectors .His performance in this session, will have an impact on the global CEOs in deciding on their investment destination. Right now, Vietnam, Indonesia, Hungary, Poland are also persuading the investors by giving them number of incentives.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan will be attending the sessions and India is expected to showcase the enormous business opportunities as well as reforms that have been implemented in the last 43 months. The Indian delegation has a tremendous task to perform to persuade the global leaders to choose India as a favourable investment destination. Twenty years ago in 1997, the then Indian Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda attended the Davos meet and talked of Indian path of globalisation. Six years after the economic liberalisation era of 1991 started, Gowda was very focused and stressed on Indian’s efforts in balancing the globalisation needs with the national interests of the domestic industries. Two decades later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his first appearance at Davos can spell out the Indian way of globalisation which focuses on poverty alleviation and speedy generation of jobs. China has made use of globalisation and prospered. India has to work out its own path that balances globalisation with domestic needs of the economy.PM has a big task cut out at Davos. (IPA Service)