It's a confusing decision for someone who ran as populist in chief, but: President Trump is going to Davos.
On Tuesday, Trump announced that he'll attend at least part of the World Economic Forum, held at Davos, Switzerland. It's hard to imagine a worse fit. The forum is equal parts glitz and globalization, an opportunity for mostly liberal economic and cultural elites (think Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and Bono) to gather and chat about how great they're doing. The New York Times calls it “the world's most high-powered networking event.”
This year's theme is “creating a shared future in a fractured world,” and the forum's website calls for an “unparalleled global effort in co-design, co-creation and collaboration.”
In his first year in office, Trump railed against international agreements, pulled the United States out of trade pacts and climate deals and pushed an “America first” agenda. It's a surprise, too, because the forum is filled with journalists, celebrities and chief executives — exactly the kind of coastal elites Trump has criticized. (One of his 2016 campaign ads featured a shot of financier and philanthropist George Soros speaking at Davos as an example of the “global power structure” crushing the American worker.)
A group of Swiss campaigners are so upset about Trump's decision to attend that they've launched a petition to keep him from the forum. Titled, “Trump not welcome — stay out of Davos,” the petition excoriates the president for his “inhumane politics” and his opposition to globalization. In just a few hours, it garnered about 5,000 signatures.
“US President Donald Trump is on excellent terms with racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, sexism, misogyny, bellicosity, climate change denial, human rights abuse and a policy that deepens poverty and inequality,” the petition reads. “ … We want to put the ‘World First’ — not ‘America First.’ ” The petition took special issue with Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord last year.
Davos organizers, however, say they're ready to welcome Trump. According to Politico, forum organizers lobbied the administration for months to send high-level officials. No president has attended the forum since 2000.
Trump aides say the World Economic Forum offers him an opportunity to sell his message to an international crowd. “The President welcomes opportunities to advance his America First agenda with world leaders,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Tuesday. “At this year’s World Economic Forum, the president looks forward to promoting his policies to strengthen American businesses, American industries and American workers.”
Politico reported that some West Wing advisers pushed Trump to use the conference as an opportunity to unleash “an especially gassy stink bomb aimed at ideas — free trade deals, a more integrated global regulatory system, and all manner of liberal pieties cherished by global elites — he deplores.”