Tue, 22 Sep 2020

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE - With his impeachment trial in the Senate about to go into high gear, U.S. President Donald Trump is heading to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum.

Trump departed on Air Force One on Monday, the third anniversary of his inauguration as the 45th U.S. president.

In Davos on Tuesday morning, Trump is to give a speech and - before returning to Washington on Wednesday afternoon - meet on the sidelines of the conference separately with several world leaders.

On Trump's agenda, according to the White House, are talks with Iraqi President Barham Salih, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Swiss Confederation President Simonetta Sommaruga and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, as well as the president of the Kurdistan regional government, Nechirvan Barzani.

The 3,000 participants at the invitation-only annual event will be outnumbered by nearly 5,000 military personnel and police.

Hundreds of protesters, some wearing koala bear costumes to highlight the devastating bushfires in Australia, and who want the global leaders at the forum to be more aggressive concerning climate change, headed to Davos via a hiking trail and a train after authorities banned foot traffic into the Alpine town.

Climate and other environmental threats rank ahead of geopolitical worries and cyber attacks in an annual risks survey published last week by the World Economic Forum.

Trump is a climate change skeptic but will share top billing at the conference with environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who will open a debate on avoiding a "climate apocalypse" two hours after the U.S. president's keynote speech.

Trump mocked the Swedish teenager after she was named Time magazine's 2019 Person of the Year.

"I think both voices are necessary," said WEF founder Klaus Schwab of Trump and Thunberg. "The environment will play a particularly important role during this meeting."

International trade

The invited guests, including numerous government leaders, "deserve commensurate security measures," Walter Schlegel, the regional police commander, told a news conference Monday. "The U.S. president has a big security detail that must be deployed."

Trump's presence at Davos, with more than 100 other billionaires in attendance, is "certain to spark controversy, as well as win praise in some corners," predicted Curtis Chin, a former U.S. ambassador to the Asian Development Bank.

At his WEF appearance in 2018, "Trump declared that America First need not mean America alone. That same message will be put to the test again as Trump returns to Davos," Chin, the Milken Institute's Inaugural Asia Fellow, told VOA.

James Jay Carafano, vice president of the institute focused on national security and foreign policy at The Heritage Foundation, said he hopes Trump spends some time at Davos looking forward on international trade.

In the wake of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA) and the first phase of a China trade deal signed, "It would be great from Trump to give another shot in the arm to economic freedom and free trade," Carafano told VOA.

A free trade agreement with Switzerland and Taiwan would be "low hanging fruit," as well as a recommitment to a trade pact with post-Brexit Britain, according to Carafano.

While Trump could use his Davos speech to take another jab at NATO members for commitments to not meeting goals on defense spending, Carafano said he hopes the president will positively mention the Three Seas Initiative, a 12-state initiative connecting the Adriatic, Baltic and Black seas region for economic and energy cooperation.

Impeachment trial

The president, however, is expected to keep one eye on the historic proceedings in the Senate where he is on trial on a charge of abuse of power and another of obstruction of Congress.

As the Senate impeachment trial reconvenes Tuesday afternoon - six hours ahead and 6,700 kilometers away in the Swiss Alps - Trump is scheduled to briefly dine with global business executives, but will then have ample time from his hotel suite to follow on television the proceedings on one of the most historic days of his presidency.

Trump's legal team contends the impeachment articles brought by the House, controlled by the opposition Democrats, "are a dangerous perversion of the Constitution." His attorneys are calling for the Senate, controlled by Trump's fellow Republicans, to swiftly dismiss the charges.

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