The annual World Economic Forum (WEF) at the picturesque Swiss town of Davos is for many just another jamboree of the rich and the powerful, while protestors against globalisation, ever-handy with slogans, call it the World Exploitation Forum. However, for a global elite trying to make peace and boost trade in an increasingly shrinking world, the meeting amid snow shows smoke signals on what they could expect in the space where politics meets economics, policies meet corporate developments and ethical issues meet practical approaches. The message this year from the Alps is a mixed one, but the biggest of them all is that economic growth is not really a global worry. On the contrary, concerns over overheating in some economies like China could be. Some 60 per cent of 1,100 chief executives surveyed ahead of the Davos meeting were confident of growth prospects. The details that emerged from the sessions echoed a similar optimism.
A major concern was over the collapse of the world trade talks. But the weekend showed the promise of a fresh round of talks to revive the Doha round of the World Trade Organisation because the European Union, the United States and Japan seemed to be in a conciliatory mood. Leaders also showed interest in controlling climate change, which implies increased efforts soon to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases resulting from industrialisation. The Davos meeting also showed a greater recognition of the ‘Chindia’ factor because China and India are clearly seen as growth engines.
While all that may cockle Indian hearts, some undercurrents cannot go unnoticed. India must lower industrial tariffs to take the Doha round forward. In climate change, India and China will be under increasing Western pressure to control carbon emissions. We may rejoice at the arrival of Indian corporate leaders, of companies such as Ranbaxy and Wipro, talking about global acquisition plans at Davos. But our policy-makers have some tricky batting ahead. In the best traditions of Indian diplomacy, tact and toughness must blend to defend the country’s interests. In the funny world of global business, competition and cooperation are two sides of the same coin.