Davos Has It All Again — Except the World's Most Powerful Person
The world’s elite flocked back to the Swiss ski village of Davos this week, celebrating the post-pandemic return of the World Economic Forum. But among the assembled billionaires, bankers, politicians and philanthropists, there was a low-level grumble: Where are the Americans?
(Bloomberg) -- The world’s elite flocked back to the Swiss ski village of Davos this week, celebrating the post-pandemic return of the World Economic Forum. But among the assembled billionaires, bankers, politicians and philanthropists, there was a low-level grumble: Where are the Americans?
Among the absentees was President Joe Biden, who presides over the world’s largest economy. Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken also were no-shows. Nobody from the White House was dispatched to the summit.
Three Cabinet secretaries attended — Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Trade Representative Katherine Tai. None of them delivered keynote speeches.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen traveled this week to Zurich — just two hours by train from Davos — to meet with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, then left for a previously scheduled trip to Africa.
People at Davos have a tendency to overstate the importance of the gathering, and they have perhaps been spoiled by the obsession Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, showed with the place. He attended twice himself, two more times than any US president since Bill Clinton, who went once.
Biden has built his political brand on his empathy with the US working class, making clear that Davos is not his style.
Nonetheless, US policy was central to conversations in the Swiss mountains — especially the climate-and-tax measure Biden signed into law in August, the Inflation Reduction Act. European governments in particular are angry that the law favors North American electric-car manufacturing over the rest of the world.
One UK leader in attendance, Business Secretary Grant Shapps, called the law “dangerous.”
Like much of the financial world, Davos participants also wondered whether US politicians will really let their government default, after Yellen announced Thursday that the Treasury would start making unusual financial moves to avoid breaching its legal borrowing limit.
Nobody from the administration was there to reassure them, unless one counts Larry Summers, the former Treasury secretary and informal Biden adviser.
Into the vacuum stepped Senator Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who helped negotiate the IRA. He found himself sought out by CEOs and foreign politicians eager to talk about the new US climate law. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte posed for photos with the senator, and foreign journalists chased after him for interviews.
“There’s been a lot of consternation and concerns about the IRA, Inflation Reduction Act, thinking that it’s going to harm the EU,” Manchin said on an energy panel in Davos. “There’s no intent whatsoever to harm any of our allies and basically to be able to give them the assurance that we’re always going to be there.”
But the enduring US moment from Davos this year may well be Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema high-fiving each other on-stage on Tuesday over their mutual refusal to end the Senate filibuster in order to pass liberal priorities like an expansion of voting rights.
The night before, the two centrist senators were spotted partying at financier Anthony Scaramucci’s wine bash at the Hotel Europa.
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