Magazine article The New Yorker

Trump in the World

Magazine article The New Yorker

Trump in the World

Article excerpt

Trump in the World

The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, getting under way this week in the Alpine town of Davos, Switzerland, has long been known as much for its socializing and its parties as for its serious discussions of policy. But the organizers do their homework, and last Wednesday the W.E.F. released its Global Risks Report 2018, detailing how factors such as interstate conflicts, earthquakes, market bubbles, and a severe energy-price shock (“increase or decrease”) could affect the well-being of populations and businesses around the world. One recurring presence in the report, weaving through a crowd of potential panics and crises that, according to its assessment, he has made more probable, is a figure who is planning to elbow his way through the halls of Davos itself: President Donald Trump.

The report notes that, in addition to such globally devastating acts as the decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, Trump has exemplified the rise of “charismatic strongman politics,” which has contributed to a “febrile” geopolitical environment. Among other things, the report says, this bending of policies to oversized personalities has increased the likelihood of a nuclear confrontation with North Korea. If you are in Davos to assess risk, in other words, just look for Trump. Attended by eight Cabinet members, he’ll be hard to miss.

Trump will not be entirely out of place, though, in terms of his importance or his self-importance. This Davos meeting, the forty-eighth, will involve some three thousand participants, more than half of them from the private sector: “members” of the W.E.F., who pay dues and are drawn from the world’s thousand largest companies, in revenues, and “partners,” at various levels, who pay a bit more to take part. They, along with invitees from the public sector, N.G.O.s, and the arts, are meant to shape “global, regional, and industry agendas.” About eighty per cent of the invitees are men.

The most recent U.S. President to have attended Davos was Bill Clinton, but so many heads of state and government show up that the W.E.F. had to perform triage in its guide to this year’s attendees, focussing on the G7 (six leaders will be present; Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, of Japan, won’t make it) and the G20 (Prime Minister Narendra Modi, of India, will deliver the opening speech; Trump will give the keynote address on the closing day). Although the guide mentions that several heads of African nations will be there, it does not name all the leaders who will have a chance to meet the man who called their countries “shitholes.” The leaders of various Muslim and Latin American nations, whom Trump has also belittled, will be present, too. (Celebrities such as Elton John, Cate Blanchett, and Shah Rukh Khan, the Bollywood idol, will also be attending; it wouldn’t be Davos without them.)

Mapping every nation that Trump has insulted is an exhausting task. It’s easy to imagine this year’s meeting playing out as scenes from a very dark screwball comedy: Trump tries to shake a gaggle of allies whom he has called deadbeats, in order to persuade Erna Solberg, the Prime Minister of Norway, to send more white people to America. But on the way he sees the French President, Emmanuel Macron, whose capital he has declared ruined by immigrant terrorists, then bumps into Mexico’s finance secretary, with whom he gets into a fight about paying for the wall. …

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