Davos 2018: Europe seeks attention before Trump arrival

Kamal Ahmed
Economics editor
@bbckamalon Twitter

Image source, Getty Images

The snowploughs here at Davos do a very good - if loud - job.

They scoop up the drifts - often feet deep - and deposit their icy loads in the ever-attendant snow lorries which follow behind.

The political equivalent of the biggest snowplough here in the Alps arrives at the World Economic Forum tomorrow.

US President Donald Trump will helicopter in and is likely to drive all before him.

Delegates are certainly waiting with bated breath to hear the message the president will deliver in his keynote address on Friday.

And during the huge business reception the White House is planning tomorrow evening.

An invite to that will certainly confer WEF bragging rights.

Yesterday, the president said his key point would be a clear one: "it's time to invest in America."

His policies are working and the economy is booming, he will say.

Whether he will offer a more conciliatory tone on global trade - yesterday, America announced new, protectionist tariff barriers on the import of solar panels and washing machines - is open to question.

Before the plough arrives from Washington, Europe is seeking to have its one day in the limelight.

And their message will be very different from the president's.

Image source, Getty Images

Emmanuel Macron of France, Angela Merkel of Germany and Paolo Gentiloni of Italy will all talk up globalisation, free trade and the need for multilateral approaches to the world's economic problems.

Only by working together and not in isolation will the world prosper, they will argue.

The leaders of Greece, Sweden and Poland are also here today - Europe day for the World Economic Forum.

In their support for globalisation, they have firm backers in the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and the Canadian leader, Justin Trudeau, who both spoke yesterday.

The divide between the "globalists" and the "protectionists" is one of the big dividing lines here in the mountains.

The other is between "the rock stars" and "the rest" - those leaders that all the business and political leaders want to meet, and those that are simply not creating so much energy.

President Trump will certainly garner a huge amount of interest, both from supporters and detractors.

Rock star

The level of fascination is even more intense than that generated by President Xi Jinping of China, who came here last year.

The other "rock star" of 2018 is certainly Mr Macron.

Last week, he hosted business leaders at Versailles ahead of his visit here.

All of those who went, and it included the biggest names in the corporate world, have spoken here of how impressed they were - and are - by the French leader's efforts both to woo them and to reform the French economy.

If mood music were a GDP indicator, Mr Macron would be shooting out the lights.

Tomorrow, on the day Mr Trump and his sizeable entourage arrive (the president is bringing 13 ministers and senior officials), Theresa May will give her address here in Davos.

Its tone will be fascinating.

On which side of the divide, globalisation versus protectionism, will she sit?

And, as the great and the good of politics crane their necks to glimpse the leaders of America and France, how will the British prime minister combat the sense among some here that the UK now makes its bed with "the rest" rather than "the rock stars"?