The captains of global capitalism venture into the snowy Alps for the World Economic Forum today facing one of the strangest economic landscapes in recent memory.
Sure, markets are soaring, the U.S. and Europe are growing, and American companies are counting the gains from last month’s corporate tax cuts. But the political outlook has rarely been cloudier, with tortured Brexit talks, Donald Trump’s tumultuous first year and the nationalist shift both have come to represent.
The U.S. president joins the globalist gathering in Davos, Switzerland, this week having unleashed his first big protectionist measures — tariffs on solar panels and washing machine imports — with more expected to follow. His presence at the forum on Friday was affirmed yesterday after Democrats stepped back from immigration demands and agreed to his terms for ending a three-day government shutdown.
The assembled elite will cast a wary eye on Trump, after sizing up other the Davos debutantes — French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Will the U.S. president continue to fan their frothy share prices and personal portfolios? Or finally make good on his vow to shake up global trade?
Just in | In a timely riposte to Trump’s tariffs move, the 11 remaining countries in a Pacific trade pact the president pulled out of a year ago said in Tokyo they’ve agreed to a revived deal without the U.S. and hope to sign it by March.
Midterm misstep? | The recriminations fell on U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer even before the final vote to end the shutdown — hinting at divisions that could complicate the party’s hopes of returning to power after November’s midterm elections. Instead of the watershed pro-immigration moment Democratic activists envisioned, Schumer accepted renewed funding for children’s health insurance and a Republican promise for immigration action later.
Pence exclusive | The U.S. should retain its “preeminent” role as mediator of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Vice President Mike Pence said, rebuffing Palestinian appeals for the European Union to take the reins following Trump’s Jerusalem decision. “But it’s going to require the Palestinians to return to the table,” Pence told Margaret Talev during an interview today in the holy city. He also said the president is open to a “balanced approach” on immigration.
Protecting the Iran deal | As the clock ticks down toward Trump’s latest deadline for an overhaul of the Iran nuclear deal, European leaders may have a plan to keep the accord alive: pressure Tehran over its missile program. They hope to tap concern that Iran is violating United Nations demands to limit its missile development and in doing so protect the 2015 deal from more damage. There’s one problem — Iran refuses to link the two issues.
Korean detente tested | North Korea could undercut South Korea’s show of Olympic unity by holding one of its massive military parades the day before the Feb. 9 opening ceremony. The regime’s news agency hinted at the possibility of a martial show after South Korean protesters burned photos of Kim Jong Un over Pyongyang’s participation in the Games. Divisions over its involvement have begun to drag down South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s approval rating.
And finally... Lebanon’s garbage crisis crashed ashore over the weekend after a winter storm dumped tons of waste on the seafront north of Beirut. Where the trash came from is a mystery, as officials traded blame about the country’s struggles to dispose of its own waste. While Prime Minister Saad Hariri ordered a cleanup, angry Lebanese vented on social media. They posted doctored photos showing the nation’s top three leaders sitting in the trash pile, bragging about their achievements.
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