The World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, has served as a platform from which the world's foremost leaders and intellectuals have expounded upon the issues facing the global community.
This year's theme, "Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World," drew lofty speeches from various leaders who made the case for a "renewed commitment to international collaboration as a way of solving critical global challenges." German Chancellor Angela Merkel cautioned against unilateralism: "Ever since the Roman Empire, ever since the Chinese Wall, we know that shutting ourselves off doesn't help to protect your borders," she said. "You also need good cooperation with your neighbours, you need good agreements, valid agreements that are respected."
But rather than take inspiration from the sweeping proclamations of his fellow world leaders, Donald Trump did his best impression of a middle manager pitching regional investors on a fast-food franchise. Declaring that there has "never been a better time" to invest in America, Trump, as expected, touted his yuge corporate tax cut, gains in the stock market, and a surge in economic growth—a phenomenon that is, in fact, being felt worldwide. He emphasised his administration's focus on gutting regulations, referencing his two-for-one deal wherein for every new regulation proposed two must be scrapped. One of his lines, verbatim, was, "We have tremendous amounts of money."
Somewhat counterintuitively, he was forced to frame the U.S. prior to January 20, 2017, as some kind of backwater economic basket case, if only to serve the narrative that he, Trump, had swooped to its rescue: "The world is witnessing the resurgence of a strong and prosperous America," he reassured the crowd. He also claimed that "America First" policies deliver a net positive, explaining that when he, for instance, pulls out of trade agreements and slaps tariffs on imports, it's because he's rooting out "unfair economic practices" that "undermines us all."
Because the bar had been set so low and Trump didn't, like drop trou or threaten nuclear war, reviews have been largely positive. "I was glad to hear him say it is 'America First' but not America alone," Cardinal Peter Turkson, who heads up the pope's initiatives on migration and the environment, toldThe Wall Street Journal. "Certainly he was very successful in presenting his successes," Stephan Gemkow, chairman of investment firm Haniel, acknowledged.
Others were less enthused at his "America First" report card. "It was a speech about what he has done," said Danish finance minister Kristian Jensen. "I would have liked to hear more about how he will renew international cooperation. I miss America on the international scene." Renat Heuberger, chief executive of Swiss environmental group South Pole, was blunter, telling the Journal, "It's a disaster. What he's calling for is global egoism. It's the survival of the fittest . . . He believes that by destroying the environment, business will thrive. That will create jobs in the short term, but in the long term it will crash."
This article has been edited for length. Read the original article on Vanity Fair.