Donald Trump is, above all, a showman. From “The Apprentice” and the Miss America pageant to the blunt way in which he addresses friends and rivals as president of the United States, he combines a tycoon’s self-confidence with populist bluntness, provoking immediate reactions – negative, positive or confused. That is why Trump’s unexpected visit to Davos has prompted international interest and raised many questions.
Is the president, whose motto is “America First,” visiting the stronghold of globalization in order to gloat, to declare in person his opposition to all that those present represent, to all that they preach? Or will he appear as one of them, a rich businessman who, like them, has gained enormously from the tax reforms that he recently introduced? In any case, the members of the global economic elite will have to ask themselves whose interests globalization serves: theirs or those of the many? Will they defend the treaties and agreements that Trump has trampled on or their personal interests?
Whatever Donald Trump said in his speech, his visit to the World Economic Forum is already very interesting. It comes after last year’s appearance by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who seized the opportunity to declare his country the protector of the global economy, a few days before his new American counterpart with the protectionist agenda took office. Since then, Trump has unilaterally taken the United States out of international agreements; a few days ago, he also imposed stiff tariffs on imports of washing machines and solar panels. Now everyone is watching to see whether Trump’s appearance in Davos will lead to the United States moving further away from the multilateral system of global governance that developed under their hegemony or whether it may signal a re-evaluation of Trump’s policy and reaffirm the global system of balances. Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron have already drawn their conclusions and, in Davos, spoke out against protectionism and unilateralism, without naming the American president.
Merkel and Macron realize that Europe must rely on its own strength and must play a greater international role. Trump’s election confirmed the need for the Europeans to unite further and not to wait for others to defend them. It remains to be seen whether each member-state, including Germany, fully understands this need and is prepared to shoulder the burden, to work more closely with its partners, so that the European Union may fill part of the vacuum that the United States is leaving in the system of global governance.
Today we may see the size of this hole.