“Amid snow storms and delays the world’s leading political and business figures descended on the small Swiss Alps town Davos this week for the 48th annual World Economic Summit.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and India’s PM Narendra Modi highlighted Tuesday’s opening session with keynote speeches on gender equality from Trudeau and a stark warning from Modi that globalisation is under threat.
Modi, the first Indian prime minister to attend Davos in over 20 years, struck a sombre note in his address, saying globalisation is beginning to lose it’s with the rise of populist politics and protectionism in many of the world’s key economies.
Trudeau used the crux of his speech to touch on one of the most pressing international issues of the last year – gender equality and sexual harassment.
Referencing the highest profile women’s rights campaigns, Trudeau urged Davos’ business luminaries to take a firm stand to stamp out gender inequality by hiring and promoting more women.
Criticised at home for her migration-friendly remarks two years ago, German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to offer a certain degree of regret over how the migrant crises of 2015-16 was handled. She told the audience that she was open-minded about what kind of partnership the European Union would develop with the UK after Brexit, but noted that there could be no compromise on the EU’s core principles in those talks.
Merkel was also very critical of her own country. Although economically strong, Germany lags behind other countries in digitization.
French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in the Swiss ski resort fresh from rallying big business bosses on Monday in his drive for a “renaissance” in French and world business.
Macron is riding high, having managed to push through sensitive labour and tax reforms in France.
At his pre-Davos gathering at the Versailles palace on Monday, the 40-year-old centrist bathed in the attention of bosses from companies such as Facebook and Google, who announced major investments in France.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker cancelled his scheduled appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos due to an apparent stomach flu.
“The president has stomach flu that will not allow him to travel to Davos,” said the EU Commission’s chief spokesperson Margaritis Schinas on Wednesday. “He’ll stay at home to recover.”
Juncker earlier appeared to break with his usual aversion to the World Economic Forum and had been scheduled to address members of the global political elite that have assembled in the Swiss Alps. The tone of his planned speech would have focused on a “Europe is back” theme that would be in stark contrast to the downbeat mood surrounding the EU’s delegations in recent years.