Hello from Davos. We’re bringing you the latest from here all week. One tidbit: Bill Gates, who has attended for 30 years, canceled his plans to come this year. (Want this in your inbox? Sign up here.)
The Davos crowd has come to like Trump’s outcomes
As the 50th annual World Economic Forum — the conclave of global business and political leaders — begins today in Davos, Switzerland, Andrew writes in his latest column that the assembly has warmed to President Trump, at least economically.
• Mr. Trump’s policies are the opposite of Davos doctrine, advocating trade wars and a fragmenting of the global economy.
• But “to the surprise of many Davos regulars, the economic results have yet to prove as disastrous as they expected — and, at least in the short term, have seemingly proven to be quite positive,” Andrew writes.
• Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising, the corporate leadership expert Jeff Sonnenfeld tells Andrew: “The Davos crowd are well-respected followers of fashion and love whomever is in power.”
• But they don’t like him personally, says the Trump-friend-turned-foe Anthony Scaramucci: “The unspeakable truth is that C.E.O.s and their staff are horrified.”
Mr. Trump took a victory lap in his speech at the Forum this morning:
• “Today I’m proud to say the U.S. is in the midst of an economic boom the likes of which the world has never seen before.”
• Of China, he said, “Under my leadership, America confronted the problem head on.” He also defended his trade war, saying, “Our relationship with China right now has probably never been better.”
• And he criticized the Fed’s unwillingness to cut U.S. interest rates to his liking.
But much of this year’s event focuses on issues that Mr. Trump doesn’t like, including:
• Climate change, which will almost certainly be a big topic, according to Stanley Reed of the NYT (especially since Greta Thunberg is set to speak). Mr. Trump himself said the U.S. would join a major tree-planting initiative, but urged a rejection of “the perennial prophets of doom.”
Counting the cost of low social mobility
To accompany the Davos gathering this week, the World Economic Forum has tallied up what it says is the financial incentive for countries to shrink their wealth gaps.
The report estimates that China could gain an additional $1 trillion in G.D.P. growth by 2030 if its social inequality is solved over the next decade, while the U.S. could gain $866.7 billion.
If social inequality remains a problem, “we will continue to see discontent, with far-reaching consequences for economic growth, the green transition, trade and geopolitics,” said Saadia Zahidi, a World Economic Forum managing director.
Related: The world’s richest 1 percent have more than twice the wealth of the rest of humanity combined, according to new research by the British charity Oxfam.
The trade deal helps, and hurts, U.S. tech
Provisions in the first phase of the trade deal between China and the U.S. help American tech companies like Micron, a major semiconductor maker. But the pact also causes them a lot of collateral damage, according to Ana Swanson and Cecilia Kang of the NYT.
• “The deal contains provisions meant to protect American technology and trade secrets and allow companies to challenge China on accusations of theft,” Ms. Swanson and Ms. Kang write.
• It could help Micron, which accused a Chinese rival of stealing its technology after rebuffing a takeover bid in 2015.
• But the fight that led to the trade deal prompted China to redouble efforts to produce its own advanced tech in areas like semiconductors, driverless cars and artificial intelligence.
• “It’s like China woke up and said, ‘We’ve relied too much on the United States,’” Robert Atkinson of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, an industry think tank, told the NYT.
• The Trump administration is increasingly putting much of the lucrative Chinese market off limits for American tech companies.
The case against venture capitalists
The venture capital industry helped create Apple, Google, Intel and Uber. But Nathan Heller of The New Yorker asks whether the benefits are worth the downsides — citing the rises and catastrophic falls of WeWork and other start-ups.
“A thriving society needs moon shots, and, in the absence of a literal space race, only venture capitalists have the mandate to throw cash at an improbable success,” Mr. Heller writes.
But the financiers earn a lot from fees regardless of whether the start-ups they invest in thrive, he adds. “If you’re a venture capitalist, you know that you will not be the one to go broke.”
And the industry may have too much money, leading to bad decisions and excesses: “Venture capital, once a small and chancy field, is now a profit machine for its managers, with all that entails. Poorly designed for its scale, rote and entrenched at the higher echelons, it has become vulnerable to a particular sort of change: disruption by a bright, daring idea.”
How Trump Inc. is entwined with the White House
With the impeachment trial kicking off in earnest in the Senate today, Anita Kumar of Politico takes a look at how President Trump has combined his personal business with the job of running the government’s executive branch.
• “A Chinese state-owned company was awarded a multimillion contract to help develop a Trump golf course in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, amid a U.S.-China trade war,” Ms. Kumar writes.
• “T-Mobile executives stayed at Trump’s Washington hotel while seeking a green light from the federal government for a merger.”
• “Even after Congress launched an investigation into his businesses, the Trump administration authorized foreign governments to rent condos in Trump World Tower in New York.”
• “Trump has promoted his properties dozens of times while in office.”
Mr. Trump’s decision not to divest his real estate business “has created a vast web of potential conflicts of interest, accusations about his policies being driven by his business interests and even possible violations of the law, according to documents and interviews,” Ms. Kumar adds.
Democratic lawmakers say they will continue investigating potential conflicts of interest, though they didn’t include them in the two articles of impeachment now under consideration in the Senate.
Could Brexit harm women in the British workplace?
Britain is set to leave the E.U. in a little over two weeks. Some fear that could disproportionately affect women, Alisha Haridasani Gupta of the NYT reports.
• In 2018, women made up a majority of Britain’s part-time or temporary workers, which would probably be the first kinds of jobs to go in the predicted economic slowdown.
• Social protections and workplace policies like parental leave and sexual harassment regulations have “a foundation” in E.U. law, according to Roberta Guerrina, a professor at Bristol University in England who specializes in gender politics.
• “Many of Britain’s standards and protections for women that were once guaranteed by the E.U. can theoretically be repealed,” Ms. Gupta writes.
• The regulations’ fate depends on whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government keeps the country aligned with some European rules as it seeks to diverge from others.
The speed read
• Uber agreed to sell its Uber Eats business in India to a local rival, Zomato, as it continues to exit unprofitable overseas operations. (NYT)
• Antitrust regulators are reportedly still investigating Altria’s $12.8 billion investment in the vaping company Juul. (WSJ)
• JPMorgan Chase is creating a division to invest in development projects in emerging markets. (CNBC)
• Twenty top performing hedge funds made $59.3 billion in investment profits last year, their biggest annual gain in at least a decade. (FT)
Politics and policy
• France and the U.S. called off a potential trade war after Paris agreed to freeze plans to tax American internet giants. (WSJ)
• Conservative states are lining up for federal funds to deal with natural disasters — but they’re careful not to use the term climate change. (NYT)
• The plastic-bag industry is winning the fight over bans of single-use plastic shopping bags in the U.S. (Politico)
• Mike Bloomberg’s huge spending on ads for his presidential run are raising rates for political campaigns across the country. (Politico)
• Privacy advocates are worried about Clearview, a facial recognition start-up that has scraped the internet — and that claims to be able to identify almost anyone. Separately, Alphabet’s C.E.O., Sundar Pichai, has called on regulators to clamp down on facial recognition technology. (NYT, FT)
• The trial over whether Canada should extradite Meng Wanzhou, the C.F.O. of Huawei, to the U.S. has begun. (NYT)
• Instagram’s C.E.O., Adam Mosseri, is trying to make the social network a safer place. (NYT)
Best of the rest
• American consulting firms like Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey have been accused of helping Africa’s richest woman loot her native Angola and stash that money abroad. (NYT)