No Trump in Davos, Brazil’s Bolsonaro a new attraction


Brazil’s newly-elected populist President Jair Bolsonaro will take center stage at the World Economic Forum (WEF) next week, taking the baton from Donald Trump after the U.S. president announced he would not be joining the rich and powerful in Davos this year.

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.

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.

But, the absence of the U.S. president is likely to thrust Brazil’s premier into the spotlight, less than three weeks after his inauguration.

“Bolsonaro will be the first LATAM (Latin America) speaker at Davos, speaking for 45 minutes — but that’s where the danger is,” Carlos Caicedo, senior principal analyst for Latin America at IHS Markit, a London-based research firm, told CNBC via telephone on Friday.

“At his inauguration, he only spoke for 10 minutes, meaning his advisors could keep him on message. But, this is a man who has made a name for himself by saying whatever he wants and only worrying about the consequences later … Thankfully there is no question and answer session afterwards,” Caicedo said.
Bolsonaro ‘unlikely to provide leadership’ at WEF

On his first international trip since becoming president of Latin America’s largest democracy, Bolsonaro is scheduled to deliver a keynote address to attendees at Davos on Tuesday afternoon.

Yet, while he is likely to come under fire from some Davos attendees on issues ranging from climate change to human rights, analysts told CNBC he is likely to try to focus on how his administration plans to tackle pension reform.

“As he’s the new big president on the block and represents an important swing from left to right in Latam’s biggest economy, he will doubtless attract attention in the press,” Robert Wood, a Brazil analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, told CNBC via email on Thursday.

“But, as he is unlikely to provide leadership in global discussions at Davos, he is likely to be overshadowed by those who do,” Wood said.

What is Davos?

Bolsonaro secured a sweeping election victory in October last year, promising to drain the political swamp and fight corruption in South America’s largest country.

Dubbed as the “Trump of the Tropics ” by the country’s media during a deeply divisive presidential campaign, the 63-year-old reportedly said he wanted to show “a different Brazil, free of ideological ties” at the forum.

“His main focus will be to put Brazil firmly back on the investor radar, by talking up the free-market reforms and restating his pledges to enact pension reforms to bring greater order to the public finances,” the EIU’s Wood said.

The main theme of this year’s WEF meeting is “Globalization 4.0: Shaping a New Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

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