From Trump love to saviour prince : Five Davos highlights

Davos (Switzerland) (AFP) –


The annual World Economic Forum wrapped up its second day in Davos on Wednesday, where a punchy US President Donald Trump swung into high gear, relaunching a trade battle with Europe.

Here are five highlights from the second day of the 50th edition of the glitzy meeting at the Swiss resort.

- Trump report card -

Much like a testy school principal, the US president handed out good and bad marks as CEOs (from Volkswagen, Saudi Aramco, Sony, Barclays, Apple, Microsoft...) and leaders (from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq) filed through his WEF quarters that became a winter-scene Oval office.

What about former president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker? "Jean-Claude was a friend of mine, but frankly, it was impossible to get along with him," he said after resuming trade hostilities with the Europeans.

Ursula von der Leyen, who succeeded Juncker, is "very nice", though she too was "very tough" in negotiations.

- Rocket 'genius' gets Trump love -

At a dinner on Tuesday evening, Donald Trump kept Europe's richest man Bernard Arnault, the boss of luxury giant LVMH, right by his side.

But it is for Tesla's boss Elon Musk that Trump showed the most enthusiasm, calling him a "genius" a day after the serial inventor's company surpassed 100 billion dollars in capitalisation on Wall Street.

"I spoke to him very recently, and he's also doing the rockets. He likes rockets. And he does good at rockets, too, by the way," Trump eulogised.

- Daring to dream -

When Volodymyr Zelensky was starring in his hit TV show "Servant of the People" about a Ukrainian teacher who suddenly becomes president, he probably never imagined coming to the Davos economic forum himself and giving keynote speech as Ukrainian head of state.

But following his stunning election victory last year, Zelensky was in the Swiss resort to bang the drum for investment in Ukraine -- and also again to dare to dream. And ask for a little bit of Davos love.

"Ukraine is the place where miracles come true. Ukraine should become an investment mecca," he said, comparing the country to the so-called unicorn start-ups that began out of garages.

"Today we are under-invested and under-loved," he lamented.

He also suggested that the country could conveniently fill the gap left by Britain's exit from the EU. "There is one big country that made an exit from the European Union. Maybe this is a time for Ukraine to enter."

- AI 'more profound change than fire' -

A day after climate change dominated the hearts and minds of Davos goers, the nefarious consequences of technology, a frequent hobby-horse in previous editions of the forum, made a return.

"AI is one of the most profound things we're working on as humanity. It’s more profound than fire or electricity," warned Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google during a panel.

Indeed, energy was the metaphor of choice for AI at Davos: Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei assured an audience that "AI is not as damaging as atomic bombs!"

"When I was six, the biggest fear people have was about atomic bombs. But if we look at the history from a distance, we see tremendous benefice from atomic energy, great benefits for humanity."

- King of the Planet -

After settling an unprecedented crisis in the British royal family with an agreement for his younger son Harry to relinquish royal duties, Britain's Prince Charles set off for Davos on another crucial mission -- to save the planet.

He arrived in stately fashion board a Jaguar car but one, which Clarence House was at pains to point out, that was entirely electric powered.

Once inside the hall, Charles did not mince his words, asking business leaders in the hall what is the point of "all the extra wealth in the world gained from business as usual if you can do nothing with it, except watch it burn in catastrophic conditions."

The heir to the throne then met Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg, something that Donald Trump had pointedly failed to do. Might Trump's attack on "prophets of doom" been aimed at him, asked one journalist. "Ha! Good point!" Charles laughed.