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Team Trump pitches America at Davos

Andy Serwer
Editor in Chief

The Americans have landed. At Davos that is.

With a fanfare of buzzing helicopters, the first wave of Team Trump has descended upon the World Economic Forum, and they got right to work. Selling—you guessed it—the U.S. of A. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Ross kicked off the day with a press conference at which Mnuchin declared that “America is open for business.” Reporters asked if that were the case, then how does America First and MAGA jibe with the rest of the world.

Our own Jen Rogers asked Ross about setting off a trade war. His response: “Trade wars are fought every day. The difference [now] is the U.S. troops are coming to the rampart.” Colorful. Mnuchin created a bit of a stir when he stated that the weak dollar is “good for the U.S.”

The dynamic duo—Mnuchin and Ross—promised a press conference every morning. Can’t wait.

Commerce Secretary Ross and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin

All this before President Trump arrives for some parties Thursday evening before his speech Friday at 8am EST. Security, already tight, will be amped up further, which in part explains why many participants tell me that that they won’t be staying for Trump’s speech and will watch it online or on TV. One of the parties hosted by the WEF will be in conjunction with its International Business Council, a kind of club within the club which includes top global CEOs. “All the brand name CEOs you would think, will be there or invited,” a WEF source told me. Many of them would be CEOs of companies who are strategic partners here, including the likes of Facebook, Pfizer, IBM etc.

The Administration’s message about America being open for business may be resonating here though. I spoke with Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan who told me that while U.S. CEOs are familiar with the benefits of Trump’s modus operandi, that being lower taxes and deregulation, CEOs outside the U.S. were not.

“There has been a receptiveness to listen,” Moynihan said speaking of non-U.S. CEOs. “They understand there might be new advantages to doing business in the U.S.” By the way, don’t look now but Brian’s bank has had a pretty strong 12 months. BAC is up some 39% over the past year, versus 24% for the S&P 500 (^GSPC).

Later, Ross Perot Jr. told me in an interview up on the sun-drenched Promenade, (we both decided to keep our shades on), that the business environment in his native Texas, particularly in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, was in great shape thanks to optimism and deregulation. “The problem is finding people to do the jobs,” he said. “The unemployment rate is down to 3% or 4%.”

I also bumped into Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, along with his chief of staff, the timeless John Rogers. Blankfein told me business was fine, though he was not quite as enthusiastic as some of the other CEOs here. But that’s his nature and make sense given markets and the economy are firing on all cylinders. As Blankfein is fond of saying, “I haven’t felt this good since 2006!” He means that tongue in cheek of course. Though this time, market prognosticators have been calling for this very long bull run to end months and years ago. So far that hasn’t happened.

Still the party will end at some point. And right now, I hear German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying in a speech that the current world order is under threat. Maybe that will do it…

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Andy Serwer is Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief. Follow him on Twitter: @serwer.

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