Showman Trump ready to take the stage at Davos

This article is more than 12 months old

Expect other world leaders to lay into US President, who will relish the opportunity to set off a 'stink bomb'

Since its foundation in 1971, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, has been a byword for the growing consensus around an increasingly globalised world.

Now, US President Donald Trump is there to tell those who consider themselves the global elite that they have been wrong on just about everything.

Davos can be a great opportunity for leaders to showcase themselves.

Last year's meeting was dominated by Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose speech focused on opposing protectionism and painting Beijing as the new defender of free trade in the age of Mr Trump.

That burnished the Chinese leader's credentials abroad in the run up to the Communist Party Congress, where he cemented power at home.

The number of big-ticket leaders this year will make that space more contested.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will likely use it as a platform to defend their record on migration and security and present a liberal centrist European vision.

That puts Mr Macron in a potentially difficult position.

Now that Dr Merkel is also showing up, the French President may feel little choice but to join with her on a relatively anti-Trump platform.

Mr Macron and Mr Trump, however, are scheduled to meet and the former might wish to re-create the friendliness that characterised their first interaction last year.

Many of the other attendees will almost certainly jump at the opportunity to lay into Mr Trump.

That was always inevitable but has become even more likely after his reported description of African and Caribbean nations as "s***hole countries".


Much will depend on how rigorously Mr Trump can be persuaded to stay "on message" - and whether other leaders can steer him towards their own agendas.

Mr Trump told The Wall Street Journal that his aim in going to Davos was to be a "cheerleader for the country".

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Mr Trump would be promoting his "America First" doctrine, a protectionist message he pushed heavily on his November trip to Asia.

Any speech Mr Trump gives will be his highest-profile overseas address yet. He will also, presumably, be keeping up his own personal Twitter coverage of all that happens, giving a level of insight into his state of mind as well as who has annoyed him.

According to Politico, Mr Trump will most likely use the speech to set off one what some advisers call a dramatic "stink bomb".

Expect him to lambaste other attendees on free trade deals he believes have undermined the US, express his scepticism on climate change and perhaps the activities of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Without doubt, he will lose no opportunity to remind other attendees that he is the president of the United States and they - as he once told a journalist from Time magazine - are not.

Mr Trump is nothing if not a successful showman. And he will savour the fact that his speech is scheduled to be delivered as one of the closing acts.

The problem for the rest of the attending elite is that even the most adept manoeuvring will not prevent their own agendas being subsumed by his.

Which is, of course, exactly how he likes it. - REUTERS

The writer is a Reuters global affairs columnist, writing on international affairs.