University President Peter Salovey will join leaders from across the world, including U.S. President Donald Trump, as they head to a lavish ski resort in Davos, Switzerland next week for the World Economic Forum.
Over the course of four days, business leaders, politicians, economists and journalists will convene to discuss this year’s theme, “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World.” And for the first time since 2000, a sitting president will attend. According to World Economic Forum spokesman Georg Schmitt, Trump will also speak at the forum.
Some Yale professors heading to Davos next week have expressed potential concerns about Trump’s presence.
“It represents something of a mixed signal about where his focus is for the country and the future in that he has been very hostile to the kind of internationalism that Davos represents,” said professor Daniel Esty LAW ’86, who will attend the forum. “One of the troubling things about Trump at this point has been on pulling back from his international dialogue.”
When nobel laureate and Yale professor of economics Robert Shiller attended the Davos forum last year, he said he got the sense that Trump lacked international support.
In an interview with the News, Shiller said he suspected that Trump’s presence at the forum would worsen American relations with the rest of the world — despite citing reports that Trump referred to “shithole countries” in a private meeting where he did not expect to be quoted, Shiller estimated that Trump will likely be “ingratiating” and “polite” on the international stage. Still, he emphasized that Trump’s manner of speaking — which he described as “big and tough” — deviates from the style of communication that is generally adopted at the forum.
Last year’s forum concluded just as Trump was inaugurated. At a closed event, Shiller sat beside Anthony Scaramucci, who would later serve briefly as Trump’s communications director, and joined Yale donor Stephen Schwarzman ’69 — who at the time chaired Trump’s business council. This year, eight cabinet members will accompany Trump to the forum.
Each year, Yale hosts a reception at the forum for about 200 alumni and others affiliated with the University. This year, the reception at Davos will be co-hosted by the science publication Nature to showcase science research at universities. Salovey will attend a dinner hosted by the Smithsonian Institution as well as other World Economic Forum sessions, including some focused on the digital economy and health.
For Salovey, Trump’s presence at the forum will likely have no bearing on his routine.
“Certainly my activities will not be particularly affected by his presence, “ Salovey said. “I am still meeting with our alumni community, meeting with Global University leadership or GULF and hosting a Yale dinner reception that will be focused particularly this year on climate change.”
Additionally, Salovey noted that Trump’s presence will bring greater media attention to Davos — a phenomenon that could help better publicize research presented at the forum, some of the Yale professors attending said.
Esty, a professor at the Forestry & Environmental Studies and Law schools, oversees the Environmental Performance Index, which indexes country-by-country and global environmental performance metrics. Although Esty questioned Trump’s commitment to internationalism, he said the media attention would benefit the Center for Environmental Law & Policy, which plans to use the forum to release its biennial performance index, a scorecard of national sustainability.
While the forum will include no conference sessions that directly concern Trump as a figure, Schmitt said that several sessions focus on current events in the U.S., such as the federal administration’s positions on climate change and trade.
“This has not gone unnoticed that he is in opposition that some of the topics that the forum is working on,” Schmitt said.
The World Economic Forum was founded in 1971.
Hailey fuchs | email@example.com