This year’s Davos gathering could rival the US version of TV reality show The Apprentice, which helped propel Donald Trump into the White House, for ratings-boosting excitement because it’s risky and because the stakes are much higher.
The theatrical tension became apparent as soon as the White House announced that President Trump would make an appearance, the first by an Oval Office occupant since Bill Clinton in 2000.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president was excited to promote “his policies to strengthen American businesses, American industries, and American workers.”
That puts his “America First” agenda on a collision course with the internationally co-operative spirit that, at least rhetorically, has guided Davos.
Further adding to the drama, there’s a chance President Trump may pull out, as the budget standoff that has shut down the US government may yet force him to cancel.
The clash of visions has also guaranteed — in reality TV fashion — to create a competitive dynamic like never before among the week’s headliners.
President Trump’s pitch will come after Prime Minister Narendra Modi today delivers a keynote on India’s charms to the business community.
Invest India, the government group advocating for financial support, has taken out a towering billboard of Mr Modi’s likeness in central Davos touting the country’s improved rankings in the World Bank’s “Doing Business” report.
French president Emmanuel Macron is similarly expected to advance his “Choose France” initiative when he takes the stage tomorrow evening.
He already preempted the Davos rush by inviting 140 leaders from companies including Facebook and JPMorgan to the Palace of Versailles on their way to Switzerland.
On Thursday, British prime minister Theresa May’s gets the chance to face the camera, and like one of the candidates vying to take the prize at the end of an Apprentice series, set out her vision for a British exit from the EU.
Look for her to enumerate the many benefits a newly-divorced Britain will have for British businesses, which are rightly spooked by the uncertainties of Brexit, and for the same multinationals President Macron is trying to lure to France.
At the end of it all, as if to maximise the suspense, President Trump’s stage appearance was scheduled for Friday afternoon, usually the lightest day of the confab, when many participants head home or carve a few turns on the slopes.
Having President Trump effectively close the festivities extends the life of the forum — another trick from the reality TV playbook.