Tony Blair and Bill Gates have been doing their best to bring the Davos agenda back to the longer-term issues of climate change and development, but let’s face it, in the current U.S. economic climate, the slowdown in the U.S. (not to mention the 'R' word) has dominated the talk here.
Pascal Lamy, the Director General of the WTO seemed fairly resigned to this but said his remit of trade meant he had to take a longer term view of things. One delegate from a development group remarked to me "where’s the talk of poverty and the environment?" She was obviously disappointed, but from a financial journalist’s perspective the last few days have offered us fantastic access to guests who can talk about the big stories of the week – namely the state of the U.S. economy and the 4.9 billion euro fraud at SocGen.
We managed to get reaction to the SocGen story from some really strong guests. Jim Turley, the CEO of Ernst & Young, gave us an auditors perspective. And not just any auditor, E&Y is one of the joint auditors of SocGen. He was pretty tight-lipped but I was surprised he had only found out about the incident this morning from the press. Joaquin Almunia, the EU Affairs Commissioner, gave his perspective but focussed on the global slowdown story and U.S. twin deficits. Richard Edelman, the CEO of Edelman had some advice for the men at the top to keep all their stake-holders informed.
There are two contrasts that really strike me about Davos this year. You can compare the negativity of many economists with the calm acknowledgment from business leaders that yes, things look a bit slower this year than last, but let’s not get carried away. You can also contrast the talk from the U.S. with the talk from elsewhere. The de-coupling argument it seems still needs to be tested.