World Economic Forum A platform to destine global economic trends

The annual gathering in Davos has certainly cemented the power of tiny global elite, but its real power has been  a spawning ground for neoliberalism’s major advances – the rise of the financial sector, the spread of corporate trade agreements and the integration of emerging economic powers into the global economy. The annual meetings of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, bring together thousands of the world’s top corporate executives, bankers and financiers with leading heads of state, finance and trade ministers, central bankers and policymakers from dozens of the world’s largest economies; the heads of all major international organizations including the IMF, World Bank, World Trade Organization, Bank for International Settlements, UN, OECD and others, as well as hundreds of academics, economists, political scientists, journalists, cultural elites and occasional celebrities.

The WEF states that it is “committed to improve the state of the world through public-private cooperation,” collaborating with corporate, political, academic and other influential groups and sectors “to shape global, regional and industry agendas” and to “define challenges, solutions and actions.” Apart from the annual forum meeting in Davos, the WEF hosts regional and sometimes even country-specific meetings multiple times a year in Asia, Latin America, Africa and elsewhere. The Forum hosted dozens of different projects bringing together academics with corporate representatives and policy-makers to promote particular issues and positions on a wide array of subjects, from investment to the environment, employment, technology and inequality. From these projects and others, the Forum publishes dozens of reports annually, identifying key issues of importance, risks, opportunities, investments and reforms.

The WEF has survived by adapting to the times. Following the surge of anti-globalization protests in 1999, the Forum began to invite non-governmental organizations representing constituencies that were more frequently found in the streets protesting against meetings of the WTO, IMF and Group of Seven. In the 2000 meeting at Davos, the Forum invited leaders from 15 NGOs to debate the heads of the WTO and the President of Mexico on the subject of globalization. The participation of NGOs and non-profit organizations has increased over time, and not without reason. According to a poll conducted on behalf of the WEF just prior to the 2011 meeting, while global trust in bankers, governments and business was significantly low, NGOs had the highest rate of trust among the public. In October of 2013, The Economist reported that “from anti-austerity movements to middle-class revolts, in rich countries and in poor, social unrest has been on the rise around the world.” A World Economic Forum report from November 2013 warned of the dangers of a “lost generation” that would “be more prone to populist politics,” and that “we will see an escalation in social unrest.” Over the course of 2013, major financial institutions such as JPMorgan Chase, UBS, HSBC, AXA and others were issuing reports warning of the dangers of social unrest and rebellion. JPMorgan Chase, in its May 2013 report, stated that Europe’s “adjustment” to its new economic order was only “halfway done on average,” warning of major challenges ahead. The report complained about laws hindering the advancement of its agenda, such as “constitutional protection of labor rights… and the right to protest if unwelcome changes are made to the political status quo.”

2018 gathering at a glance…

The 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, just wrapped up a short time ago. Despite the lack of public trust in banks and financial institutions, Davos remains devoted to protecting and expanding the interests of the financial elite. In fact, the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum (its top governing body) includes many representatives of the world of finance and global financial governance. The World Economic Forum’s 48th Annual Meeting was held on 23 to 26 January 2018 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, bringing together a record number of heads of state, government and international organizations alongside leaders from business, civil society, academia, the arts and media. The Co-Chairs of the Annual Meeting 2018 were General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Belgium Sharan Burrow , Director-General, European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) Geneva Fabiola Gianotti, Chief Executive Officer, ENGIE, France Isabelle Kocher, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Washington DC Christine Lagarde, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, IBM Corporation, USA Ginni Rometty, Founder and Chairman Deshi Foundation India Chetna Sinha, Prime Minister of Norway Erna Solberg. This World economic forum (WEF) was held under the theme, creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World, the meeting was focused on finding ways to reaffirm international cooperation on crucial shared interests, such as international security, the environment and the global economy.

Who said what?

“America First does not mean America alone,” US President Donald Trump said in his speech. The state of the US economy featured highly in the President’s speech.”After years of stagnation, the United States is once again experiencing strong economic growth, he said. “The stock market is smashing one record after another, and has added more than $7 trillion in new wealth since my election”, he further revealed.

Alibaba founder and Executive Chairman Jack Ma spoke openly and at length about some of the key challenges facing the world, delivering a stream of unique perspectives and guidance. Ma has previous form in offering leadership advice, and this year he didn’t disappoint, offering a success secret to beat the age of automation. “If you don’t want to lose quickly you will need a high IQ, and if you want to be respected you need high LQ: the IQ of love,” he said.

Angela Merkel invoked the lessons of history when she took to the Davos stage. Multilateralism is under threat, announced the German chancellor, reminding participants that 2018 marks the end of the First World War. “Have we actually learned the lessons of history? We haven’t really,” she said.

“France is back,” said President Macron during his speech. In a wide-ranging address that covered everything from climate change to tax cuts, one message took precedence: “France is back at the core of Europe”. Echoing parts of Angela Merkel’s speech earlier in the day, in which she highlighted the need for international cooperation, the French president said there would never be “any French success without a European success.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May told Davos attendees that the United Kingdom was doubling down on the principles that make global trade work for everyone. As the UK leaves the European Union, it will still be an advocate of global trade, making new bilateral deals with countries across the world, said the PM.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kicked off his speech with an announcement: “Today, I am pleased to announce that Canada and the 10 other remaining members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership concluded discussions in Tokyo, Japan on a new Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP),” he said.

Trade loomed large in Trudeau’s speech, with NAFTA talks underway in Montreal this week and Trudeau in Davos partly to draw attention to Canadian investment opportunities. The prime minister has traditionally taken a relaxed stance on global trade negotiations, calling NAFTA a vastly complex set of talks with many phases, the eventual outcome of which he expected to be a “win-win-win” for Canada, Mexico and the US.

In a one-on-one interview, Google Chief, Sundar Pichai repeated a line he first delivered at an MSNBC event last week, that artificial intelligence is more important to humanity than fire or electricity.

He said that despite concerns about AI, the potential benefits couldn’t be ignored. “The risks are substantial, but the way you solve it is by looking ahead, thinking about it, thinking about AI safety from day one, and to be transparent and open about how we pursue it,” he said.

On day one of Davos, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi listed his three most significant challenges to civilization as we know it: climate change, terrorism and the backlash against globalization.  He also spoke about the opportunities and dangers of technology, India’s plan to fight income inequality, job creation, and how the country is “cutting the red tape and rolling out the red carpet” to international trade and investment.

Speaking at a session titled ‘The Belt and Road Impact’ at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Prime Minister of Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that CPEC is about developing infrastructure, power plants, airports, seaports, highways and special economic zones for export growth. Sharing the results of the over $56 billion CPEC, Prime Minister revealed that, the cement industry has grown by 56 per cent while exports are up by 15 per cent, adding that the project has resulted in the creation of “great investor confidence”

The future prospects…

Last year’s Global Risks Report was published at a time of heightened global uncertainty and strengthening popular discontent with the existing political and economic order. The report called for “fundamental reforms to market capitalism” and a rebuilding of solidarity within and between countries. One year on, a global economic recovery is under way, offering new opportunities for progress that should not be squandered: the urgency of facing up to systemic challenges has, if anything intensified amid proliferating indications of uncertainty, instability and fragility. In annual Global Risks Perception Survey, environmental risks have grown in prominence in recent years. This trend has continued this year, with all five risks in the environmental category being ranked higher than average for both likelihood and impact over a 10-year horizon.

This year’s Global Risks Report introduces three new series: Future Shocks, Hindsight and Risk Reassessment. Our aim is to broaden the report’s analytical reach: each of these elements provides a new lens through which to view the increasingly complex world of global risks.

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