Washington's Place at Davos

Posted by: Diane Brady on January 28, 2009

It’s telling that Davos is breaking records this year: with the highest-ever number of CEOs and company chairpersons (more than 1,400) and more high-profile politicians than at any time since the annual gathering began at the Swiss mountain resort in 1971. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, British Premier Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao are among the leaders in attendance at the World Economic Forum this week.

Alcoa chief executive Klaus Kleinfeld said Wednesday that there has never been a more critical time for business and political leaders to come together. “How do we get the engine of the world economy started up?” asks Kleinfeld, whose company recently reported a fourth-quarter $1.2 billion loss amid dramatic declines in the price of aluminum. Kleinfeld, for one, has organized more than two dozen one-on-one meetings with customers, politicians and peers over the next few days. “There’s no place on this earth to see more people in such a short time,” he says. “It’s of incredible value to me.”

And who is coming from the Obama Administration? Valerie Jarrett, the Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liason. While many will be eager to hear what Obama’s senior advisor has to say when she speaks on Thursday afternoon, there’s no hiding the disappointment that the Washington doesn’t have a bigger presence this year, even with an Administration that’s barely a week into the job.

Davos veterans like White House economic adviser Larry Summers and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner stayed home (though rumors were circulating that Summers would in fact come), as did national security adviser James Jones. “Short-sighted” is how one Latin American executive described Washington’s efforts, and several European participants also expressed disappointment that they will have to grab policy insights from the likes of former president Bill Clinton or Congressman Barney Frank instead.

Also in short supply are the bankers who played such a major role in the crisis. Some were forced to drop out by circumstance, most notably former Lehman chief Richard Fuld and the recently ousted John Thain of Merrill Lynch. Others appear to have too much to do at the office, or perhaps don’t want to face the crowd. The finance sector is so woefully under-represented in the minds of some people here that HSBC Group Chairman Stephen Green was actually thanked by a journalist at one press conference for being “the banker who showed up.”

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Reader Comments

Phil

January 28, 2009 02:25 PM


Where is Obama?

Oh yeah, he doesn't believe in free markets and capitalism, the things that CREATE wealth...
{If he really was smart he would realize that all the money he is stealing from the US taxpayers comes from capitalism...} They call this "killing the goose that lays the golden egg..."

Brown

January 28, 2009 02:48 PM

I think the fact that large companies and various governments are coming together for one economic meeting is very telling of the sad state that we are currently in, which has apparently been developing since 1971. Too much government interference is really what got us here to begin with, giving the populace a false sense of security while simultaneously backing bad practices (bailing out bad companies, allowing people to keep houses that did not continue to adequately pay for, etc...). What ever happened to free markets? Sad.

sam

January 28, 2009 04:18 PM

One wonders if some of the attendees at Davos know how to run their companies as legitimate businesses. We know that some of them are good at fraud, asset-stripping, M&A, and offshoring. Actually producing real goods and services? Who knows.

Derick

January 28, 2009 05:35 PM

It still amazes me that at this late date people still don't get it. The system is broken. Corporate greed and special interest group has led to the decisions that put us in this economic mess. The only way things will get better is if the system changes at a global scale.

I don't care what you call it - you can call it realism for all I care but if things don't change everyone complaining about protecting capitalism and free markets will be living in a world where there money is not going to be able to buy them the lifestyle they have in mind. I wish folks would open their eyes instead of blindly following outdated beliefs.

anonymous

January 28, 2009 06:35 PM

In 2007, a sensational news item about Devos reported in media "Blinder was taken aback when, sitting in at the business summit in Davos, Switzerland, he heard U.S. executives talk enthusiastically about all the professional jobs they could outsource to lower-wage countries. And he's a free trader".

Excutives want all the the high paying jobs should be outsourced. Their master plan, it seems, is to move perhaps 40 million high-skill American jobs to other countries. Do they really care about America or American public. I do NOT think so. Corporate America is interested only in short term profits. Who will think about this great nation, people and the its economy?

Please see the link
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2003668844_harrop17.html

Sam Rainey

January 28, 2009 08:42 PM

Why should Obama appointees bother attending this overblown ego-fest ? What tangible results have we seen from previous Davos meetings ? Except ego stroking of business/media/political blowhards ?

sam

January 28, 2009 08:51 PM

The mood at Davos is glum because they know they have created a crisis they can't manage. A lot of the faces that are there this year won't be there next year.

Christopher Holland

January 28, 2009 11:36 PM

Name one good thing that ever came out of Davos. Why can't the place be hit by an avalanche, the timing is perfect. There will never be a better chance to get rid of so much deadwood in one go.

tilly

January 28, 2009 11:37 PM

One reason why no high-level Obama people are at Davos is because Davos doesn't matter this year. It's a meeting of failures. None of them seems to have any big ideas about how to proceed because moving forward means shoving them aside.

Jeff

January 29, 2009 12:45 PM

Forget DAVOS...just a boondoggle for busness people to have a nice vacation and be able to expense it off the business taxes.....BullSht

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How can you manage smarter? BusinessWeek writers Nanette Byrnes, Patricia O’Connell, Emily Thornton, Matthew Boyle, Michelle Conlin and Diane Brady synthesize insights from the brightest business thinkers, critique the latest management trends, and comment on leaders in the news.

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