Angela Merkel’s presence at Davos could counter Trump’s protectionist bluster

What did you just say?
What did you just say?
Image: Reuters/Ian Langsdon
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When US president Donald Trump rolls up to the World Economic Forum in Davos later this month with his large delegation in tow, he’ll be preaching one message: “America First.” The president will use the gathering of elite global leaders to promote “his policies to strengthen American businesses, American industries, and American workers,” according to a White House.

He will find himself at odds with leaders, whose messages are openness, unity, and liberal values—and two in particular: French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel.

German government officials told Reuters that the chancellor is considering attending the conference, which she has missed for the past two years. For Merkel, Davos would be a return to the global stage after months hammering away at coalition negotiations for Germany’s new government. Her conservatives cut a preliminary deal with the Social Democrats on Jan 12, steering the country away from the prospect of snap elections and freeing up the chancellor to look beyond Berlin properly for the first time in months.

Merkel has met Trump several times since he became president; who could forget their excruciatingly awkward White House press conference in March 2017?

While she hasn’t criticized the US president directly, Merkel has been quick to voice her strong disapproval of his policies. Ahead of the G20 summit in July last year, Merkel said “globalization is seen by the American administration more as a process that is not about a win-win situation but about winners and losers.”

In parliament the same month, she said: “Anyone who believes they can solve the problems of this world with isolationism and protectionism is making a big mistake.”

Last year at Davos, it was Chinese president Xi Jinping who tackled Washington’s protectionist stance head on. This year, the world’s most powerful woman will likely not mince her words.