DAVOS, SWITZERLAND – The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum kicked off Tuesday in Davos, Switzerland, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi openly railing against anti-globalization and urging a halt to isolationist trends.
“I see that many societies and countries are becoming more and more focused on themselves. It feels like the opposite of globalization is happening,” Modi told leading figures from the political, business, academic and NGO world.
“The result of all this is that we get to witness new types of tariff and nontariff barriers. Bilateral and multilateral trade agreements and negotiations have come to a kind of standstill. Most nations have seen a decrease in cross-border financial investment further, growth in the global supply chain has also stopped,” Modi told the packed conference hall in the ski resort town, which saw some of the heaviest snow in two decades over the weekend.
More than 3,000 of the world’s most influential figures have gathered for this year’s conference from over 100 countries, including about 80 Japanese participants.
Among them are Hiroaki Nakanishi, executive chairman of Hitachi Ltd., who will become the chairman of Japan’s top business lobby Keidanren in May; Kazuo Hirai, president and CEO of Sony Corp.; former economic and fiscal policy minister Heizo Takenaka; and Hiroshima Gov. Hidehiko Yuzaki.
The speech by the Indian leader followed in the footsteps of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s opening remarks at last year’s event.
The speeches by the two leaders have been widely seen as symbolizing the increasing presence of the two Asian giants at what was once a conference dominated by European leaders.
Xi’s speech last year also defended globalization and was seen as a challenge to U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda. With Modi also criticizing protectionism and isolationist moves, many conference participants expressed curiosity about what Trump would have to say when he arrives in Davos later in the week.
Speaking about the breakneck pace of his country’s economic growth, Modi said India is aiming to have a gross domestic product of $5 trillion by 2025 by increasing investment and abolishing some 1,400 “archaic” laws.
French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other Group of Seven leaders are also attending the conference. But because of the Diet’s scheduled ordinary session, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other Cabinet ministers were unable to attend.
In addition to various political discussions, the sessions will cover the latest technologies such as artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles and drones while also focusing on gender equality, another issue that has captured global attention in recent months.
Earlier Tuesday, the WEF announced plans together with the Japanese government and domestic firms to build a network connecting government, academia and business people to promote and tackle various issues related to technologies shaping the future, often dubbed the “fourth industrial revolution.”
The Japanese project, which will be the sister institution of a similar one in San Francisco, will be headquartered at the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Tokyo.
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