The world's business and political leaders are gathering this week in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum
. This year's theme is "Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World," and the global elite will be discussing cybersecurity; global geopolitics; migration; food and water security; climate change; and more in over 400 sessions. Narendra Modi, prime minister of India, will give the opening address this year, and U.S. President Donald Trump will deliver a keynote speech before the end of the forum. A record number of leaders from the major industrial nations will participate, and more than 340 top political leaders overall are scheduled to attend the annual meeting.
To help readers follow the discussions on demographic, economic and technical trends, Stratfor presents these articles we've published over the years, along with their summaries. They include pieces on how the trends central to this year's forum are affecting trade and the workforce. For a broader view, we offer our 2018 Annual Forecast.
Dec. 26, 2017: Countries across the globe will kick off the new year with a bit of good news. A decade after financial crisis shook the world to its core, growth in the global gross domestic product has finally begun to pick back up. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that the global economy will grow more than 3.5 percent in 2018 — the fastest pace seen in eight years.
Jan. 24, 2017: Countries that can weather the political pain of structural reform, overhaul financial systems to match their demographic outlooks, and apply the necessary capital and technology to drive innovation from a diverse talent pool will be the best equipped to adapt to the New Order of the Ages. But there is still much work to be done and sacrifices to be made along the way. The Founding Fathers were not so presumptuous to believe that their young Republic's hardest days were behind it. In designing the Great Seal, Thomson placed the words "Novus Ordo Seclorum" beneath a pyramid of 13 steps to represent the 13 colonies that laid the foundation of American democracy. By Thomson's design, the pyramid is unfinished, leaving it not only to the statesmen at the helm but also to the people of the Republic to continue the strenuous work in shaping a "more perfect union."
Sept. 27, 2016: Today, the pace of technological change continues to accelerate. Advances in areas such as nanotechnology and materials science, smart factories, additive manufacturing, autonomous cars, gene-editing techniques, and battery technology stand to alter life on Earth, not only for individuals but also for the nations they inhabit. The world's countries will experience the radical transformation that disruptive technologies bring at different times and to different extents, some more favorably than others. But technological development and diffusion do not happen at random; geopolitical factors play a determining role in the process. Recognizing which countries are best situated to take advantage of emerging technologies can help us understand what the geopolitical order will look like two decades from now.
June 7, 2016: Technology is a part of geopolitics that is often overlooked, and yet it fundamentally changes the way countries interact with one another and cope with their inherent constraints. As we move into a brave new world of automated manufacturing, 3-D printing and artificial intelligence, such changes are inevitable. And just as we look back and mark the invention of the cotton gin or the assembly line as turning points in history, so, too, will our descendants look back on today's inventions as the start of a new era.
Nov. 22, 2016: Though the means have changed over time, infrastructure — whether water, rail, road or electronic — remains a critical component of a country's economic success, one that some nations come by more naturally than others. As the global economy continues its evolution from the current era of globalization to one of increased automation and digitization, new developments will supplement existing infrastructure, hindering or facilitating countries in their efforts at economic growth. Even the United States, notwithstanding its geographic advantages, will have to adapt to the new economy to maintain its position as a world leader. Geography may be a constant, but the demands and advantages of infrastructure are not.
Nov. 15, 2017: For decades the United States has sat atop a unipolar world, unrivaled in its influence over the rest of the globe. But now that may be changing as a new, informal alliance takes shape between China and Russia. The two great powers have a mutual interest in overturning an international order that has long advantaged the West at their own expense. And as the Earth's sole superpower turns inward, they will seek to carve out bigger backyards for themselves. Will their marriage of convenience once more give rise to the bipolarity that characterized the Cold War, or will it unravel in the face of a natural rivalry rooted in geopolitics?
June 3, 2018: The United States is unlikely to develop the political cohesion and will to adopt a social democratic model like Sweden's to bring more women into the workforce and increase birthrates through federal policy. Instead, more progressive measures are likely to emerge at the corporate and state levels. California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts are the only U.S. states so far to provide paid parental leave. (Already, studies conducted in California and New Jersey have shown that the policies encourage more women to return to work instead of dropping out of the labor market.) Washington, D.C., will offer paid parental leave beginning in 2020, and legislation on the matter will take effect this year in New York. At the corporate level, U.S. tech companies such as Netflix, Etsy, Google, Amazon, Apple Inc., Adobe Systems Inc., Facebook and Twitter have set the trend for flexible leave policies. The companies, which tend to have younger people in management positions, see the need to retain valuable talent and have capitalized on tech's relative freedom from so-called industry standards on how to handle parental leave.
Aug. 23, 2017: Little of France's vision for the future of Europe's internal market is new. But the United Kingdom's looming departure from the bloc means that future rounds of negotiations on the subject will take place in a much different context. London has long stood against protectionism and has criticized excessive regulation within the European Union. Without it, the bloc's free market faction will lose an influential voice in future debates. Even so, France does not have the power to reshape the bloc on its own, regardless of its political and economic prominence on the Continent. And while there is room for compromise on several of the issues it has brought to the table, the talks that ensue will carry the risk of widening the rifts already pulling the European Union apart.
Nov. 28, 2017: From its very inception, the European Union has depended on the alliance between France and Germany. The bloc's predecessor, the European Economic Community, formed with the principal goal of binding the two countries together so closely that another war on the Continent would be impossible. And from the 1950s on, a tacit agreement underlay their partnership: France was the main political and military power in the bloc, and Germany was the main financial supporter (paying for, among other things, onerous subsidies for French farmers). After German reunification in 1990, France even pushed for the creation of the euro as another way to strengthen Paris’ links with Berlin.
Jan. 18, 2018: The United States spent 2017 laying the groundwork needed to aggressively pressure China on trade and investment in 2018. Now it appears the pressure is on. On Jan. 17, InsideTrade reported that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is contemplating setting up a system of reciprocity on Chinese foreign direct investment in the United States. Under that system, the United States would treat Chinese investment into U.S. sectors the same way China treats U.S. investment into its analogous sectors. It would fall to Chinese investors to prove their desired investments would be allowed under Chinese investment rules.
Jan. 10, 2018: Canada has taken a shot at the United States in the World Trade Organization. According to WTO documents circulated Jan. 10, Canada opened a case Dec. 20 against the United States' "systemic trade remedies measures." The United States has launched several trade remedy measures against Canada since U.S. President Donald Trump's administration took office and continues to exert pressure on Canada in negotiations to amend the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In Stratfor's 2018 Annual Forecast, we wrote that the United States would continue to push its aggressive trade agenda while trying to increase its centrality in decision making on international trade enforcement. Though this forecast holds, Canada's pushback will make the United States' task more difficult.
Dec. 5, 2017: The United States doesn't have to shoulder the historical baggage and the centuries of animosity that drive competition in the Middle East. It has the luxury of distance, from which it can manipulate the balance of power at will. In other words, while Israel and Saudi Arabia perceive Iran to be an existential threat, the same may not be true for the United States. Its removal from the situation gives Washington the space to manage Iran through a more assertive policy of strategic containment that stops short of reintroducing the menace of regime change and thus keeps the country from having to resort to more extreme measures. Therein lies the difference between strategic and ideological policymaking. As the North Korea conundrum gives rise to a more precarious age of nuclear deterrence, that difference will matter all the more.