Crises keeping leaders away from Davos, Ardern opportunity

A number of world leaders will be absent from the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland due to domestic crises. However the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will attend, and has a heavy workload.

Reuters: Gloomy forecast for Davos: crises aplenty, but few world leaders

An array of crises will keep several world leaders away from the annual World Economic Forum in Davos next week, which takes place against a backdrop of deepening gloom over the global economic and political outlook.

Some 3,000 business, government and civil society figures are due to gather in the snow-blanketed ski resort, but among them are only three leaders of the Group of Seven most industrialized countries: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte.

Donald Trump, who stole the Davos limelight last year with a rare appearance by a sitting U.S. president, pulled out of this year’s event as he grapples with a partial U.S. government shutdown.

French President Emmanuel Macron is also skipping the meeting as he seeks to respond to the “yellow vest” protests, while British Prime Minister Theresa May battles to find a consensus on Brexit.

Outside the G7, the leaders of Russia and India are shunning Davos, while China – whose president, Xi Jinping, was the first Chinese leader to attend the elite gathering in 2017 to offer a vigorous defense of free trade – is sending his deputy instead.

So a lack of big names in the world. The problems that may be addressed in their absence:

Anxieties over trade disputes, fractious international relations, Brexit and a growth slowdown that some fear could tip the world economy into recession are set to dominate the Jan. 22-25 Alpine meeting.

The WEF’s own Global Risks Report set the tone this week with a stark warning of looming economic headwinds, in part because of geopolitical tensions among major powers.

So where does Ardern fit in? She has quite a bit to do, with no baby distraction on this international trip.

Fran O’Sullivan: It’s Jacinda Ardern’s chance to shine — but can she show substance too?

Will Jacinda Ardern measure up to the star billing she has been accorded by the World Economic Forum (WEF) at its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland next week?

The WEF highlighted Ardern’s participation among four other “leaders and luminaries” — including naturalist Sir David Attenborough, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prince William — in the key press statement announcing the lineup for Davos 2019.

This is quite striking for a political leader barely into her second year as New Zealand’s Prime Minister and yet to chalk up significant and sustained domestic results.

An extraordinary opportunity for an unproven leader of a small, remote country.

Ardern’s star status will inevitably burnish the PM’s credentials as a “next generation leader” with her finger on the international pulse and an instinct for emerging issues.

But how the Prime Minister translates her growing reputation in key offshore circles into concerted political results at home will ultimately be how she is judged.

Will she be viewed as a political curiosity in the vein of former Labour Prime Minister David Lange, whose communication skills obscured his failure to command his Cabinet?

It will take some time yet to see how Ardern measures up on substance and significant achievements.

The WEF has invited Ardern to join three panels — more than many other “minor” leaders — which will enable her to play to her undoubted communication strengths and position New Zealand (under the Coalition Government) as being progressive on some big issues of our times.

Ardern’s first panel is on is “Safeguarding Our Planet“, where panellists will be asked to address how leaders can take action to safeguard people and the planet.

Other panellists include Afira Sakano, who is chair of Japan’s Zero Waste Academy; Attenborough; former US Vice-President Al Gore, who has carved out a reputation as an environmentalist; and Anand Mahindra, an Indian industrialist.

Ardern’s next panel is “More than GDP“, which will enable her to promote New Zealand’s first “wellbeing Budget”, which Finance Minister Grant Robertson will unveil this year.

The preamble to the panel says it is widely recognised that GDP alone is an inadequate measure of a nation’s progress. “Human capital, well-being, innovation, resilience and agility alongside GDP are critical measures of economic and social progress.”

Again, the panellists will be asked to address what government, business and civil society leaders can do to better capture the less-tangible factors of inclusive growth.

Other notables on this panel include OECD chief Angel Gurria.

He will join Prince William for Ardern’s final panel, which is on mental health.

Ardern says she intends to speak out against “false protectionism and isolation” at Davos, and also in visits to London and Brussels, where she will be promoting trade initiatives in the wake of the Brexit debacle.

“I hope other leaders will come to see more compassionate domestic policy settings as a compelling alternative to the false promise of protectionism and isolation,” she says.

It is interesting to see mental health in the mix.

This raises one of Ardern’s problems so far, talking big but delivering small, or failing to take urgent action on what have been claimed to be urgent issues – like mental health.

It was claimed that mental health care in New Zealand was in crisis two years ago, but incoming Ardern-led Government set up yet another inquiry, and while a report has been delivered the Government are yet to say what they are going to do about it.

Talking up compassion is fine to an extent, but actually delivering in a substantive way is something that Ardern and her Ministers have step up on.

So Ardern is about to step up on the world stage at Davos. It will be interesting to hear what she ways, and to hear the world reaction.

 

Ardern to promote ‘wellbeing agenda’ at Davos

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is attending the annual World Economic Forum in Davos in Switzerland soon (January 22-23), and while there will promote New Zealand’s ‘wellbeing agenda’ as some sort of  revolutionary new way of doing economics.

Beehive: PM to promote trade and wellbeing at World Economic Forum

At the World Economic Forum in Davos the Prime Minister will be promoting the Government’s approach to inclusive growth through the Wellbeing Agenda, and the delivery of the world’s first wellbeing budget in May this year.

She will be participating in a range of panel discussions at Davos including one focused on wellbeing and options beyond GDP with the head of the OECD, the future of the international trading system with the head of the WTO and a panel focused on mental health with His Royal Highness Prince William.

“Our wellbeing approach is generating significant international interest, particularly at a time when the international rules based order is under strain and leaders are grappling with constituencies dissatisfied with the status quo.

“I hope other leaders will come to see more compassionate domestic policy settings as a compelling alternative to the false promise of protectionism and isolation. “

Donald Trump won’t be at Davos this year  but “the false promise of protectionism and isolation” sounds like a swipe at hime, or at least an attempt to paint a contrast with his approach and Ardern’s.

New Zealand’s “wellbeing approach” is little more than theory at this stage. It is too soon to tell whether it will be a substantive new approach to budgeting and governing, or if it amounts to little more than grand talk with little action.

It’s not as if past governments and past monetary policies have ignored the ‘wellbeing’ of people. That is largely the purpose of government – the wellbeing of the people of the country.

A move to “more compassionate domestic policy settings” may be incremental change, or it could be a radical shift, but so far the only significant change is in the use of words, and the promotion of a Wellbeing Agenda as some sort of big thing.

Does anyone know what it will actually change for us, the people?

Ardern needs to be careful she doesn’t get too caught up in the wellbeing of her international profile at the cost of actually doing stuff of worth at a domestic level.

She and her government need to prove that their agenda is worthwhile and workable here in new Zealand before they claim too much credit overseas.

 

 

Tricky time for Ardern for trade talks in Europe

In the UK Brexit is in disarray, and this mess will cause difficulties working out future trade alliances there and in Europe. But all this up in the air Jacinda Ardern is going to try.

RNZ: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern heading to Europe with a focus on trade

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern heads to London this weekend where she’s expected to meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May in the wake of her surviving a no-confidence vote.

While there Ms Ardern will push for certainty that New Zealand will be left no worse off in respect of trade following the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union (EU).

I doubt that trade with New Zealand will be much of a priority for May or for the UK right now. They don’t know what they are doing for themselves let alone what they might be able to do with countries on the other side of the world.

She will then head to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, along with the Finance Minister Grant Robertson, where the focus will be progressing a free trade agreement with Europe.

The prime minister will then head to Brussels for high-level meetings.

“My visit to the UK is an opportunity to underline New Zealand’s position as a natural and long-standing partner for the country as it redefines its global role post-Brexit,” Ms Ardern said.

What ‘post-Brexit’ will look like is anyone’s guess right now.

“I will be using my engagements to enhance New Zealand’s profile as a likeminded partner to the EU across a wide range of issues, including climate change, social policy, trade and our commitment to the rules-based system,” she said.

“There is still much progress to make in trade talks with our European partners, so a key focus of this whole trip is to speak to European Commission and individual country leaders to shore up support for our ongoing negotiations and ensure New Zealand exporters achieve a great deal.”

Ardern is probably on the mark saying “There is still much progress to make in trade talks with our European partners”.

She has too make the most of her trip to London and Europe, but it is going to be difficult making much progress on trade deals.

Unless Ardern can sort out Brexit for May and the EU while she is there.

Ardern to miss Ratana to attend Davos

I’m not sure what the big deal about politicians attending the January Ratana Church event – they don’t give this attention to any other religion – but the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will miss it this year to attend the he World Economic Forum in Davos.

RNZ:  Prime Minister won’t attend Ratana celebrations

Jacinda Ardern will be in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum and deputy PM Winston Peters will take her place. On her return from Davos, the prime minister – along with ministers and Maori MPs – will make the trek to Northland to attend Waitangi commemorations.

RNZ: Labour Māori MPs face demands for action as PM misses Rātana celebrations

Last year, the freshly-minted Prime Minister kicked off the political year at Rātana and Waitangi with warm welcomes and celebration at the news she was expecting her first child.

In two weeks Jacinda Ardern was expected to return to Rātana – a Labour stronghold – but international travel to Switzerland for the World Economic Forum means her deputy Winston Peters will instead take her place.

And from there Ardern will attend Waitangi Day celebrations. She made a big impression last year, going top Waitangi for five days, but she will struggle to match that performance.

On her return from Davos she, along with a strong contingent of ministers and Māori MPs, will make the trek to Northland where her attendance at Waitangi commemorations is locked in, but she’s yet to commit to attending the annual Iwi Chairs Forum on 1 February.

In a statement Ms Ardern said her schedule for Waitangi was still being worked through and a decision about whether to attend the Iwi Chairs Forum hadn’t yet been made.

While some say Ms Ardern’s absence from the forum would be viewed as a snub, others say Māori have moved on from waiting with bated breath for the prime minister to deliver a speech of promises and instead just want to get on with business.

Mr Paraone said they can expect to receive some criticism at Waitangi as well as some free advice on what to do better.

“There will be some of my relatives who over the past twelve months have been quite critical of the Māori members, particularly those from the north, and then there will be others who will continue to be quite supportive of them but by the same token be whispering in their ears saying, hey we expect a bit more.”

But Rangitane Marsden, the chief executive of Ngāi Takoto – the iwi hosting the forum this year – said many Māori had moved away from expecting the government to provide for them, and, rather, the focus this year was on iwi economic development and building a strong business relationship with the Crown.

“I think this is the year where we want to sit down and do business, so that’s probably the theme of what we’d be after with government: it’s ‘let’s not keep talking about things, let’s not have anymore rhetoric speeches, let’s actually make something happen and be real about what we do’.”

“I think there’s a new opportunity to build a stronger relationship so we can move forward. In the past … there’s been a lot of energy put into the relationship with National and now that we have a new government it’s probably a switch of tack.”

Iwi leaders are hoping Ms Ardern will attend the forum but at the same time Mr Marsden said they’ve reached a point where they don’t need the prime minister repeating herself in order to get things done.

“So while every year at the election or Waitangi we’d wait with bated breath for a particular prime minister to describe what they’re going to do to make a difference for us – those days are fast disappearing,” he said.

I would expect Labour to deliver on something to Māori now theyt hold all seven Māori  electorates

Trump meets May

US president Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Theresa May have met in Davos at the annual World Economic Forum.

BBC: President Trump predicts ‘tremendous increase’ in UK-US trade

In a series of warm exchanges in Davos, Switzerland, President Trump also told the UK PM: “We love your country.”

He also rejected “false rumours” of differences, saying that the two leaders “like each other a lot”.

The two leaders met in Davos, at the World Economic Forum, with post-Brexit trade relations between the two countries high on the agenda.

Mr Trump said: “One thing that will be taking place over a number of years will be trade. Trade is going to increase many times.

Typical exaggeration from Trump, although ‘increase many times’ is also typically vague.

“I look forward to that… the discussions… that will be taking place are going to lead to tremendous increases in trade between our two countries which is great for both in terms of jobs. We look forward to that and we are starting that process, pretty much as we speak.”

He added the US would be “there to fight for you – you know that” and the two were “joined at the hip when it comes to the military”.

Mrs May replied that the “really special relationship” between the UK and US continued and they stood “shoulder to shoulder because we are facing the same challenges across the world”.

“Alongside that working for a good trade relationship for the future which will be for both our benefits, so the UK and the US both do well out of this – and it’s been great to see you today.”

It will be interesting to see how trade works out between the US under Trump and the UK given Trump’s other moves on trade.

Trump withdrew the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, NAFTA (with Canada and Mexico) looks shaky, and the US has just slapped high tariffs on solar panels and washing machines – see Job creator, or job killer? Trump angers solar installers with panel tariff and US tariff on solar panels is ‘job destroyer,’ says Joseph Stiglitz

May and the UK have good cause to be wary of trade deals with Trump.

Merkel may now attend Davos forum

There could be more attention to the World Economic Forum due to be held in Davos, Switzerland in about two weeks, with US President Donald Trump scheduled to attend. It is seen as contradictory that Trump would want to attend a forum focussed on globalisation given his preference for US isolation.

Reuters: Swiss mountain town Davos relishes its turn in Trump spotlight

The Swiss Alpine town of Davos is used to celebrities and high-rollers, but even it is relishing the new challenge posed by U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to attend the World Economic Forum this month.

“This is the 48th WEF,” said Reto Branschi, CEO of Davos Klosters Tourism. “Every year, we have 20 presidents from all over the world. We are used to the visits of presidents.”

Trump’s visit to Davos for the annual meet-up of global political and business leaders will be the first by a sitting U.S. president since Bill Clinton came in 2000.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Ernst Wyrsch, who was director of the hotel where Clinton stayed during his WEF visit and now heads the region’s hotel association.

“Davos, for at least a couple of days, will be at the center of the world.”

While dignitaries come each year — British Prime Minister Theresa May and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping made the trek to the town last year — they lack the media pulling power of a U.S. president that throws a spotlight on a community reliant on tourism.

Trump, whose entourage will include Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, may drop in for just a day, give a speech and then depart.

There is something of a contradiction in all this.

The WEF is a haven for supporters of globalization espousing the very free trade pacts that Trump has blasted as unfair to the United States.

It had been thought that German leader Angela Merkel would not attend but after a preliminary agreement on a coalition was reached last week this may change.

Reuters: Merkel could join Macron in Davos for epic clash with Trump

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is considering joining French President Emmanuel Macron at the World Economic Forum in Davos next week in what could turn into an epic clash of competing world views with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Merkel, who has been struggling to put together a government since a German election in September, had been expected to skip the annual gathering of leaders, CEOs, bankers and celebrities in the Swiss Alps for a third straight year.

But after clinching a preliminary coalition agreement with the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) on Friday, German officials said Merkel could travel to Davos after all, possibly setting up a major confrontation with Trump, who is expected to speak on the final day of the forum.

An appearance would signal Merkel’s return to the world stage after months of political limbo in which she has avoided the limelight and been dismissed by some in the German and international media as a spent force.

It would also allow her and Macron, who is scheduled to speak at the forum on Jan. 24, two days before Trump, to reaffirm their commitment to reforming the European Union after Britain’s decision to leave, and to defend liberal democratic values in the face of Trump’s “America First” policies.

Brexit plus Trump’s “America First” aims are likely to change international affairs and alignments significantly.

However it seems that the New Zealand Prime Minister won’t be at Davos.

Stuff: The international year ahead: What international trips could be on the prime minister’s radar?

World Economic Forum: This is held in Davos, Switzerland, every year and Trade Minister David Parker is going. And incidentally, the US Government has just announced President Trump will be there. But it’s not a common one for the leaders to visit every year, and it’s unlikely Ardern will have the chance to attend this year – the meeting is just two weeks away.

There are no plans (made public anyway) for Ardern to meet with Merkel, but that would be a significant event if it happened. New Zealand is working towards a trade agreement with the European Union.

A meeting with Theresa May would also be significant as the UK looks for trade deals outside the EU. May attended and spoke at Davos last year and is expected to attend again this year.

Ardern will probably be happy to not meet Trump in the US.

Oxfam: rich versus poor

Yesterday in New Zealand media ran a story from Oxfam that tried to compare a few rich people with a lot of poor people.

RNZ: Top 1% of NZers own 20% of wealth

The country’s two wealthiest people own the same amount as the poorest 30 percent in New Zealand.

And the richest 1 percent of New Zealanders own 20 percent of wealth, while 90 percent of the population owns less than half of the nation’s wealth.

Oxfam New Zealand executive director Rachael Le Mesurier said it was shocked to discover the wealth inequity in this country, saying it was trapping huge numbers of people in poverty and fracturing societies, citing the drop in home ownership rates as one example.

“New Zealanders love fairness, not inequality. The government should be tackling inequality here and globally, by cracking down on tax avoidance wherever it is, and using that money to make our country, and the global economy, a fairer place. This wouldn’t just be the right thing to do, a more fair economy would also be simple common sense and enormously popular with New Zealanders,” she said.

The Oxfam research highlighted the gap between the wealth of individuals, rather than disposable incomes.

There is an issue of concern about growing income and wealth disparities, and Oxfam succeeded in getting headlines, but they are making comparisons that are vague, and the solutions are more vague.

It is dog whistle type politics, trying to denegrate people with higher levels of wealth and higher earnings – ‘ rich peoeple bad’ sort of thing.

What do they propose? Taking all the wealth off the wealthy – and with the two they named here much of that wealth is probably not in New Zealand – and distribute it to all the poor babies who deserve it?

I have no idea whether Oxfam are comparing the wealth of fifty years olds to fifteen year olds or five year olds. Who are the poorest 30% here?

New Zealand should strive to improve life and opportunities for poorer people for sure, but I don’t know that Oxfam’s approach is going to help.

Oxfam said New Zealand’s findings were consistent with other countries where the gap between rich and poor was greater than previously thought.

It blamed big business and the extremely wealthy for the growing discrepancy, saying they fuelled the inequality crisis by avoiding taxes, driving down wages for their workers and the prices paid to producers and investing less in their businesses.

This sounds very much like big business bad – yes, there are issues that need addressing, but demonising all wealthy people and businesses makes no sense apart from populist appealing and squealing.

If businesses didn’t make profits they wouldn’t employ and pay people. Is that what Oxfam want?

As a charity Oxfam doesn’t pay tax, in New Zealand at least. Do they pay equal wages to all their employees?

This is a world wide campaign by Oxfam time to coincide with the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The Times: Eight men are richer than half the globe

Only eight billionaires have as much combined wealth as the poorest half of the world, according to Oxfam.

Six Americans, a Mexican telecoms entrepreneur and the Spanish founder of the Zara clothing chain are between them worth more than the 3.6 billion people who form the poorest half of the world’s population.

Oxfam released its latest report into the scale of global inequality to coincide with the start tomorrow of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where about 3,000 of the global business and political elite, including Theresa May and Philip Hammond, will gather for the annual meeting.

The forum has put inclusive growth and inequality on the agenda, but Oxfam has latched on to the backlash against the status quo.

I presume that a significant proportion of donations to Oxfam comes from people with higher wealth and incomes.

I used to donate regularly (automatic payments) to Oxfam, but stopped when they became more political.

I think there are real issues with income and wealth disparities, and with international tax avoidance.

I don’t think that trying to shame the rich with apples and oranges wealth comparisons will achieve much.