Since he became US President, Donald Trump has used the World Economic Forum at Davos to his advantage. In 2018, he attended the event to boast about America’s economic growth only to miss it a year later.
In 2019, Trump decided that the US ‘does not need this quasi-public forum to communicate its thoughts’, according to Steven Blitz, chief US economist at TS Lombard. However, his decision was probably determined by his frustration with NATO and NAFTA at the time, as suggested by Cailin Birch, global economist at the Economist Intelligence Unit, when interviewed by CNBC.
This year, the US President decided to attend the meeting, and there can only be two reasons for that: his possible impeachment and an upcoming election.
Trump said during a Tuesday morning speech at the 50th annual gathering in Davos that he has ‘never been more confident in America’s future.’ He focused on steady job growth, low unemployment and phase one of his new trade deal with China.
Although the President normally loathes these events as they are packed with establishment figures, this is an excellent election opportunity for him. Despite stagnant wage growth, the US economy is performing. An average of 205,000 jobs per month were added to America’s economy from September to November. China agreed to buy $200 billion worth of US products once phase one of the US-China trade deal was concluded. It is no wonder he has so far spent his time dining with business leaders and discussing with them the benefits of 5G innovation, as opposed to impeachment hearings.
Trump made the economy his central focus during his 2016 campaign with a promise to make America ‘great again.’ As long as the economy continues to boom and trade deals are signed, the US President needs to do all he can to drag the American public’s focus back onto this issue, even if it means using platforms like Davos as an opportunity to do so.
Furthermore, many of the business leaders he has met so far might be interested in investing in the US, so this is also his chance to say that his visit to the World Economic Forum sparked interest in the American economy among some of the world’s wealthiest entrepreneurs.
It would also be a double victory for the President if he managed to persuade French President Emmanuel Macron to reach a deal on the digital tax being proposed by his government that impacts US technology firms.
Trump is also bragging about successful trade talks with his EU counterparts, which is one positive achievement for him.
If he manages to secure any of these outcomes, then his progress at Davos would make an outstanding election pitch to voters before the 2020 election has officially begun.
The more chances the President has to talk about the economy, the more he can concentrate on depicting the Democrats as hellbent on impeachment.
Politico reports that Trump’s aides have established a war room to argue their case to voters that Trump is being railroaded by his opponents. One senior administration official described the Trump administration’s goal as ensuring the Democrats are held to account in the public arena.
The White House is confident that Senate Republicans will acquit the President, which is why there is more focus on winning the public’s support.
Trump has managed to deflect Davos’s attention away from impeachment proceedings by asking White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham to respond to the Democrats’ accusations.
Overall, the Trump administration has been successful in deploying the timing of the World Economic Forum to its advantage, as the meeting is happening at the same time as Trump’s impeachment trial. The President can claim that he was busy focusing on the economy whilst the Democrats concentrated on exaggerating Trump’s constitutional authority abroad. Either way, this can be depicted as a win for him.