DAVOS — The big story so far at Davos is…the snow! Ok, and Donald Trump too. We’ll get to POTUS and other substantive matters in a minute, but first the weather.
They say it’s the snowiest WEF meeting in 18 years. Over three feet of snow is expected to have fallen by the end of Monday since Saturday in this tiny Swiss mountain ski town, making travel even more difficult than usual. The almost always reliable, snow-ready trains up here were closed on Sunday because of avalanche danger. And walking down the Promenade—Davos’ main drag—Monday morning, you can hear the loud booms up the mountain as safety personnel set off explosions to dislodge huge buildups of snow above the town to prevent avalanches and open the ski runs which are closed because of the risk.
Davos looks incredibly lovely, but the wet snow makes for treacherous footing. No doubt there will be some falls and casualties—let’s hope it’s not anyone from team Yahoo Finance; Kevin Burke, Jen Rogers, Seana Smith or me. (Actually Jen and I have already taken tumbles!)
Ok, now on to the serious stuff. The most amazing thing about Davos is that people come back, again and again. The degree of difficulty to get here and do business is hard to overstate. So many folks when you talk to them, say, “I’m not coming back,” and then you see them again next year.
The line-up this year is frankly impressive. First you have the requisite celebs: Cate Blanchett, Elton John, Yo-Yo Ma and will.i.am, and all manner of bold-face media types.
But the real action is with the heavy-hitting CEOs and business leaders, such as: Marc Benioff, Michael Corbat, Ray Dalio, Larry Fink, Adena Friedman, Bill Gates, Carlos Ghosn, Dara Khosrowshahi, Andrew Liveris, Jack Ma, Brian Moynihan, Satya Nadella, Indra Nooyi, Sundar Pichai, Chuck Robbins, Ginni Rometty, David Rubenstein, Steve Schwarzman, Arne Sorenson, Martin Sorrell, Jes Staley, Mark Weinberger and Devin Wenig.
And then from government, check this out: King Abdullah of Jordan, Mark Carney, Elaine Chao, Bob Corker, King Felipe of Spain, Al Gore, Jim Yong Kim, Christine Lagarde, President Macron, Prime Minister May, Kevin McCarthy, Chancellor Merkel, Wilbur Ross, Prime Minister Modi, Steven Mnuchin, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Rick Perry, Prime Minister Trudeau….oh and Donald Trump!
As I noted recently, Trump is causing quite a stir, before he’s even arrived (he speaks on Friday at the very end of the conference) as he represents everything that Davos is against. Trump, Mr. Make America Great Again, of course believes in America first and is no fan of globalism, which is at the very core of what the World Economic Forum seeks to accomplish.
It’s true though that increasingly the folks at WEF acknowledge that the notion of unfettered globalism is being challenged. In fact the theme of this year’s Forum is: “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World.” That, and the opening speaker is Indian Prime Minister Modi. “People think, ‘oh you guys are just discovering economic nationalism’ [with Trump coming this year}, said a WEF source. “Well Modi has been making India great again since 2014.”
There is of course the possibility that Trump won’t come, given the government shutdown and myriad other issues in Washington. I’m betting he will, but even if he doesn’t, POTUS will have made his presence felt.
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Andy Serwer is Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief. Follow him on Twitter: @serwer.