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The “Trump Shock” in Davos

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DAVOS, Switzerland | Xinhua | The 54th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos unfolded this week amid hope for a stronger recovery as well as concerns over global crises and risks.

Prior to its opening, news came from across the Atlantic: Former U.S. President Donald Trump won the first Republican primary in the 2024 presidential election, fueling up discussions over a chain of ensuing uncertainties.

“Every question I’ve gotten as I’ve walked up and down the ‘Davos’ Promenade today is, ‘is he coming back?’” Tim Adams, president of the Institute of International Finance, told CNBC.

Although Trump himself is an ocean away, discussions about him fill this Swiss town. Ian Bremer, president of the Eurasia Group, an American political risk consulting firm, said “Everyone’s talking about it … I mean, there’s a lot of ice out there. Right under the ice — just under the ice — is sheer panic on the part of certainly every European leader you may have seen.”

In 2018, when Trump participated for the first time as the U.S. president in this forum which advocates globalization, he vigorously promoted his “America First” and unilateralist trade concepts, which were considered by many participants then to be “new risks” facing the world.

The U.S. Politico recently published an article titled “Trump gatecrashes the Davos party,” which pointed out that many participants at the WEF annual meeting were worried that if he wins the White House again, Trump may oppose globalization more aggressively.

Peter Thal Larsen, a columnist for Reuters, wrote that the WEF hopes to explore a way to revitalize global trade through this annual meeting, but if Trump is elected and imposes a universal tariff on imported goods as he claims, then “any such initiative would be dead on arrival.”

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He also noted that global efforts to combat climate change may be hindered again, considering that the United States withdrew from the Paris Agreement during the Trump administration. Addressing climate change has also been a main topic in Davos in recent years.

Some multinational companies have already taken precautions. “Considering what happened when President Trump was in office, his main interest is trade. So we have to expect trade issues will be very serious,” said Takeshi Niinami, CEO of Japanese drinks maker Suntory. He added his company is allocating more resources to its operations in the United States so it can protect itself against trade disputes.

Talking about the possible impact of Trump’s election on the development of global science and technology, Andrew Ng, a top expert in the field of artificial intelligence in the United States, said that it is difficult to predict the future, but he hopes that the United States visa policy for students majoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics will be more friendly in the future.

Obviously, the policies implemented by Trump during his term have left Europeans with lingering fears, and this is especially felt by the European “regular visitors” to Davos.

Although Europe is a traditional ally of the United States, during the Trump administration, the United States imposed high tariffs on EU steel, aluminum products, red wine, etc., and claimed that European cars exported to the United States threatened U.S. national security. These practices severely hampered U.S.-European relations.

“If we are to draw lessons from history, looking at the way he ran the first four years of his mandate, it’s clearly a threat,” said Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank. “Just look at the trade tariffs, the commitment to NATO, the fight against climate change. In these three areas alone in the past, American interests have not been aligned with those of Europe,” she added.

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Philip Hildebrand, vice chairman of asset management giant BlackRock, said that if Trump is elected, it will pose a “great concern” to Europe. He also suggested that Europe should seize the opportunity to reduce its dependence on the United States.

In fact, people still have reasons to believe that no matter who wins the White House, the general logic of the tortuous progress of world history will not change. Across the globe, multi-polarization continues to develop, emerging markets and developing countries are rising, and most countries in the world have a stronger call for openness and cooperation. These positive dynamics are what continues to drive the world forward. ■

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