Trump Heads to Davos, Where Climate is a Key Focus

Patrick Goodenough | January 20, 2020 | 4:19am EST
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President Trump at Davos in January 2018. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)
President Trump at Davos in January 2018. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)

( – Buoyed by two significant trade accomplishments, President Trump is heading this week to the World Economic Forum’s annual high-level gathering in Davos, where the organizers have made climate a major focus.

Trump is scheduled to deliver an address to the meeting in the Swiss Alps on Tuesday morning, the same day as the teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg appears on two panels – one on “Forging a sustainable path towards a common future,” the other entitled, “Averting a climate apocalypse.”

“How to save the planet” is one of the chosen themes for Davos 2020, and WEF founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab has asked every company attending to use the opportunity to announce “a target to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or sooner.”

Trump, who withdrew the United States from the 2015 Paris climate accord, will likely have other priorities.

“I’m going to be going to Davos,” he said at the White House on Thursday. “I’ll be meeting the biggest business leaders in the world; getting them to come here. I’ll also be meeting with foreign leaders.” 

“We have tremendous world leaders, and we also have the great business leaders,” he said. “And we want those business leaders all to come to the United States.”

Trump said the U.S. was “booming.”

“Our country is the hottest country anywhere in the world. There’s nothing even close,” he said. “Every world leader sees me and they say, ‘What have you done?  This is the most incredible thing that we’ve ever seen.’”

That same day, the U.S. Senate approved implementing legislation for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the successor to the 25-year-old NAFTA. While running for the White House Trump called NAFTA “the worst trade deal ever made,” and pledged to overhaul or replace it.

A day earlier, the U.S. and China, the world’s number one and two economies, signed a “phase one” trade deal at the White House, easing some U.S. sanctions on China but leaving in place for the meantime tariffs on some $360 billion in Chinese imports.

Trump heads to Davos on the day the U.S. Senate impeachment trial is due to get underway.

The annual meetings go back to the 1970s, and sitting U.S. presidents have not generally attended. President Clinton did so in 2000, but Presidents George. H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Barack Obama did not.

In 2018, Trump attended for the first time (the 2017 event had taken place on the eve of his inauguration), a decision that surprised some since his “America First” values seemed at odds with the globalization extolled at Davos.

His used the opportunity to tout economic achievements at home and to tell the global elite that America was “open for business,” and that “America first does not mean America alone.”

Greta Thunberg at last year’s Davos forum. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)
Greta Thunberg at last year’s Davos forum. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)

Last year Trump stayed away, and canceled the U.S. delegation’s trip, citing a government shutdown. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the meeting by video link, and pushed back at the notion that the U.S. under Trump was “isolated on the global stage.”

The last time Trump crossed paths with Greta Thunberg, the then-16-year-old was captured on camera, glaring at the president as he passed by at the United Nations in New York City last fall.

Addressing a U.N. climate summit that same day – most of which Trump skipped in favor of an event focusing on religious persecution – Thunberg railed at world leaders, accusing them of “failing us” in their response to climate change.

Trump then tweeted, with a link to a video of her speech, “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”


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