Sunday, January 28, 2007

Davos wraps up

The annual Davos World Economic Forum was held this past week. Coverage by Bloomberg News expressed surprise that, while attendance was large and high profile overall, attendance at meetings and presentations on global political issues in areas of interest such as the Middle East, North Asia, and Africa was sparse. Since the Davos website describes in a subtitle the Economic Forum as "Committed to Improving the State of the World", the Bloomberg reporter's comment would seem to be the right reaction. In fact, however, Davos has been and remains primarily a world financial trade fair, at least until these substantial political threats start tangibly disrupting markets.

Davos highlighted four major issues this year; global trade talks, climate change, technological change, and globalization effects in general. Attendees represented major financial institutions, global corporations, global investors and central bankers. Representing many financial firms are a senior representative like the CEO, but just as often, perhaps more often, a non-executive Chairman or Vice Chairman, meaning someone with stature who is in the process of retiring. In addition the firm representatives below that are senior deal makers, the hands-on rainmakers who are there to win business, entertain, even have associates give out expensive trinkets(it's amazing to see how much very wealthy people like to receive free stuff).

That there is such a forum to discuss climate change, global economic trends, and avoiding unfair trade barriers is a good thing. Expecting this forum to address global political issues is a stretch, even though political issues will at times radically impact economic issues. Perhaps there needs to be something like a Davos II, in which governments are represented by senior officials, not just central bankers, and corporations are represented by their leaders, leaving the deal folks behind. That would be a different and possibly a more important dialogue about global prosperity and peace.

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