Several high-profile leaders, including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, will address the World Economic Forum on Wednesday amid a wider debate of the merits of populist nationalism versus global cooperation.
Abe and Merkel, who lead the third and fourth largest economies in the world, represent internationally-minded governments keen on supporting free trade and cooperation. Their speeches to the global elite in the Swiss ski resort of Davos will come a day after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo extolled their governments’ renewed focus on nation self-interest.
Merkel is also addressing the gathering amid growing uncertainty in Europe over Brexit after British lawmakers last week voted down Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal with the European Union. Since then, there’s been growing talk that Britain could crash out of the bloc without a deal or that it will end up extending its date of departure from the current March 29.
The trade conflict between the United States and China will also be in focus when China’s vice president, Wang Qishan, addresses the conference later. On Tuesday, Pompeo said he was “optimistic” that there will be a “good outcome” in upcoming trade discussions with China in Washington.
A high-level Chinese delegation is due to arrive in the U.S. capital on Jan. 30 as the two sides seek to strike an accord to end their trade conflict.
However, Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed chief executive said Wednesday she’s “quite worried” that the rules-based system that has governed global trade for decades is under threat.
Carrie Lam said any diminution in the traditional rules could lead to rising political tensions around the world.
Worries over the future of the rules governing global trade have been stoked over the past couple of years, particularly since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump. His administration has taken umbrage against China and the two countries have imposed tariffs on hundreds of billions worth of traded goods, igniting a trade war that could seriously hobble the global economy.