The leaders of some of the European Union’s largest countries and institutions will be giving the elite gathering at Davos a miss next week, despite the timely issue of populism being high on the agenda.
The leaders of France, Germany, Italy, and Spain have all snubbed this year’s forum, as has the Commission leadership, preferring instead to send finance ministers, in the case of the four nations, and five commissioners.
Their decision not to attend means they will not play a role in what is set to be a show-down between China and the incoming Trump administration on how to address the popular opposition to globalisation.
Their absence will also deny Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May, an opportunity to sound out her counterparts on issues surrounding Brexit, just weeks before she is due to enact Article 50 and begin the process of withdrawing Britain from the EU.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to dominate this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF), held annually at the Swiss ski resort of Davos. The first Chinese president to attend the Forum, Xi is expected to take on President-Elect Donald Trump’s anti-globalist rhetoric during his keynote speech, by putting forward his views on steering “economic globalization towards greater inclusiveness”.
As the Forum runs between 17-20 January, with the closing ceremony due to take place just hours before Donald Trump’s inauguration as president, he will be represented by Anthony Scaramucci, a member of his transition team.
The Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong has told reporters that “channels of communication” will be open between the Chinese delegation and Trump’s transition team at the forum, although no formal meeting has yet been scheduled.
The U.S. will also be represented by a strong delegation led by outgoing Vice-President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry.
So far, Britain’s Theresa May, Ireland’s Enda Kenny, Mark Rutte of The Netherlands, and Sweden’s Stefan Löfven, among other European leaders, are expected to attend.
WEF founder Klaus Shwab has said that this year’s meeting must make progress on the problems facing the world, and has argued that populism isn’t the answer.
At a pre-meeting press conference, Shwab said: “Every simplified approach to deal with the global complex agenda is condemned to fail.
“We cannot just have populist solutions.
“The problems we face technologically, economically, socially and politically are so tremendous, such that sustainable solutions requite a systemic, holistic approach […] and particularly the collaboration of all global stakeholders, united in one mission – improving the state of the world.”
In total, aproximately 3,000 participants will attend the event, including 1,800 business leaders and around 50 heads of state, including the leaders of Paraguay, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Pakistan, Ukraine, and South Africa, among others. Hollywood stars Matt Damon and Forest Whittaker and the singer Shakira are also set to make an appearance.