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Asia to dominate Davos virtual forum as West tackles virus

 Emerging stronger from the Covid-19 pandemic, Asia is poised to dominate this year's virtual World Economic Forum as a virus-ravaged West struggles and a new U.S. president faces particularly daunting challenges.

Asia to dominate Davos virtual forum as West tackles virus

WEF 2020, which took place in its usual Swiss alpine resort of Davos, saw the global elite begin to worry about a pandemic that emerged in China a month earlier.

While the coronavirus leaves a growing death toll and disrupts economies, depriving millions of people of jobs, China and Asian countries in 2021 are making a comeback from the virus that hit them first.

In virtual format due to the pandemic, next week's event is titled: "A crucial year to rebuild trust."

Asia to dominate Davos virtual forum as West tackles virus

The focus of attention will be on Chinese President Xi Jinping, who will deliver a speech on Monday, the opening day of the event that will last until next Friday.

The big names in Europe will be German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who heads the executive of the European Union.

US President Joe Biden will not appear in virtual Davos, which has never been a fixture on the White House calendar, even if the new administration has pledged to revive a multilateral US foreign policy afterward. four years of Donald Trump's America First approach.

Trump had been an exception when he stopped in Davos twice, and the real estate billionaire enjoyed mingling with the global business elite.

Asia to dominate Davos virtual forum as West tackles virus

Before him, Bill Clinton was the only American president to have traveled to Davos, and that was only once.

From Asia appear the presidents of China and South Korea, as well as the prime ministers of India and Japan.

After the first virtual session, Davos will move to Singapore in May, away from the luxurious Swiss ski resort where it has taken place since its inauguration in 1971, the brainchild of German professor Klaus Schwab.

The stated reason for the changes is health security.

- 'Possibility of rebuilding' -

But a virtual forum isn't particularly appealing to the wealthy move-in and troublemakers of the world, who value closed-door meetings in posh hotels than meetings in formal settings.

French insurance and credit group Euler Hermes said in a study this month that the "world economic center of gravity" (WECG) has been shifting towards Asia since 2002.

"The Covid-19 crisis could accelerate the shift of the global balance towards Asia," he added.

"By 2030, we forecast that the WECG could be located around the confluence of China, India and Pakistan," the study projects.

Xi's speech, who addressed Davos in 2017, almost seems to turn back the clock, as if the business world is seeking to erase the Trump era.

Four years ago, he presented himself as the champion of free trade, much to the delight of Davos participants who feared the protectionist moves of the newly elected Trump.

Nonetheless, Biden is sending John Kerry, the special climate envoy who will be welcomed after the new Democratic president has returned Washington to the Paris climate accord.

The agenda includes workshops entitled: "Stakeholder capitalism: building the future", as well as "Driving a new social contract" and "Readjusting consumption for a sustainable future".

In a column published in mid-January, Schwab said that 2021 could be a positive and historic year, 75 years after the original "Year Zero" following the devastation of World War II.

"Once again we have the opportunity to rebuild," he said, calling for a rethinking of capitalism in light of a pandemic that has exacerbated inequality.

He said that "Covid-19 has dealt the final blow" to the postwar model where free markets and limited government produced prosperity and progress that is now "no longer sustainable, environmentally or socially."

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