Trump is skipping Davos this year — but it probably won't matter

Key Points
  • Thousands of business, political and cultural leaders are scheduled to return to the Swiss Alpine town of Davos on Monday.
  • But, this year's five-day event is without its main attraction of 2018, after Trump abruptly scrapped plans to join other world leaders at the forum.
  • "The absence of a U.S. delegation at Davos is an accurate reflection of global affairs over the last year," Cailin Birch, global economist at the Economist Intelligence Unit, told CNBC via email.
President Donald Trump looks on during a discussion after delivering his speech during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting on January 26, 2018 in Davos, eastern Switzerland. /
Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images

The absence of President Donald Trump and key members of his cabinet at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos this week probably won't matter all that much, analysts told CNBC, but it is an accurate reflection of global affairs over the last 12 months.

Thousands of business, political and cultural leaders are scheduled to return to the Swiss Alpine town of Davos on Monday. The annual forum is seen as an opportunity for international heads of state to come together to try and put the world to rights.

But, this year's five-day event is without its main attraction of 2018, after Trump abruptly scrapped plans to join other world leaders at the forum due to the ongoing government shutdown.

"The U.S. does not need this quasi-public forum to communicate its thoughts, in fact I think it would be better if the current administration would communicate it's every thought a little less often," Steven Blitz, chief U.S. economist at TS Lombard, told CNBC via email.

"The bigger loser of the U.S. not attending in some official capacity is Davos, as Trump basically is telling them it is an expensive boondoggle that is nice to attend, but not necessary for the U.S. government. He is right," Blitz said.

'America First'

The government shutdown — already the longest in U.S. history — continues to rumble on, with Democrats and Trump unable to bring an end to the political impasse over the weekend.

The U.S. president offered "compromises" in exchange for funding for his security wall along the Mexican border on Saturday. But, Democrats quickly rejected the proposal, saying the terms were "unacceptable," and "hostage taking."

Trump's offer comes at a time of escalating external pressure to end the partial closure that has inflicted financial pain on government workers, and disrupted services from food inspection to airport security.

The president's demand for money to construct the border wall — and Democrats' refusal to fund it — led to the funding lapse that polls say Americans are increasingly blaming on Trump.

"Out of consideration for the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay and to ensure his team can assist as needed, President Trump has canceled his delegation's trip to the World Eco-nomic Forum in Davos, Switzerland," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement late Thursday.

VIDEO3:1203:12
What is Davos?

Nonetheless, even in Trump's absence, the U.S. president is still likely to be a major talking point in the snowy mountain village of Davos this week.

Whether it's the ongoing government shutdown, the U.S.-China trade dispute or Trump's reported wish to withdraw from NATO, it'll be hard for the global elite to avoid discussing the U.S. president's actions at the annual forum.

"The absence of a U.S. delegation at Davos is an accurate reflection of global affairs over the last year," Cailin Birch, global economist at the Economist Intelligence Unit, told CNBC via email Monday.

"Mr Trump has shown an increasing frustration with foreign alliances and treaty organisations, ranging from NAFTA to NATO, which he views as a constraint on U.S. power," Birch said, before adding: "We expect the U.S. to become increasingly isolated on the international stage, as Mr Trump pursues his America First strategy."