Technological change, inequality will loom large at this year’s Davos summit

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By Stephanie Ruhle and Michael Cappetta

DAVOS, Switzerland — The world’s financial and political elite, including more than 60 heads of state and government, will converge here this week for the annual World Economic Forum.

But there will be at least one notable absence at the five-day summit.

President Donald Trump is sitting out the marquee event. He withdrew amid the partial government shutdown that has dragged on for more than 30 days.

The pullout is not just an apparent attempt to keep the focus on the American political impasse over immigration. It is also yet another example of Trump’s “America First” administration disengaging from the world.

Chinese officials won’t have the chance to continue trade talks with the administration in the hopes of settling the pending trade war.

International Monetary Fund Chief Christine Lagarde will not be able to share insights on monetary policy and slowing global growth with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

America’s allies from around the world will not be able to coordinate with the United States on pressing topics including climate change, refugees and the future of globalization.

The leaders in government and business who congregate at the Swiss Alpine town will nonetheless move ahead with wide-ranging discussions of science and technology, income inequality and other high-stakes issues.

Davos attendees are generally excited about technological advancements such as automation, artificial intelligence and research in genetics — even as some of those leaps threaten to leave untold workers out in the cold.

The debates could become contentious around questions of workplace diversity and inclusion, where strides are being made in several countries amid faint but mounting calls from traditional forces to preserve the status quo.

The growing divide between worker and executive pay, in particular, has many political leaders, philanthropic figures and business titans grappling for solutions.

The founder of the forum, Klaus Schwab, said in a recent interview that he believes the world is undergoing a “Fourth Industrial Revolution” amid fast-paced technological change.

Schwab told the Associated Press that he believes too many workers around the world are being left behind, and that he would like to see more “equilibrium” between national needs and global challenges.

“We are living in an interdependent, global humanity and there are global challenges like the environment, like terrorism, like mega-migration for which we have to find common solutions,” he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are among the heads of state expected at the Jan. 22-26 gathering.

And while Trump plans to remain in Washington, D.C., top U.S. officials — including the heads of the Commerce, State and Treasury departments — are expected to attend the snowy retreat.

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