Narendra Modi, leader of the world’s largest democracy and second most populous country, used a keynote address to the “global elite” to defend the principles behind free trade and multi-lateral approaches to international problems against creeping protectionism he said threatened developing countries.
In oblique but unmistakable references to the anti-globalist protectionism demonstrated in the rhetoric and actions of U.S. President Donald J. Trump, the Indian Prime Minister said continuing progress in global development and reducing inequality depended on reinforcing, not weakening, multilateral approaches.
“All the world is one family…,” Modi told leaders from politics and commerce at the World Economic Forum (WEF). “This means that all of us…we are linked together as one family…our destiny has a common thread that links all of us.”
That encompassing message is central to the ethos of the Davos gathering which Trump is perceived to have rejected during his campaign and now put at risk in his presidency with actions such as withdrawing from the Paris climate accords, threatening to scrap (Bloomberg) the North American Free Trade Agreement, calling Germany and other allies “very bad” (Spiegel) on trade and imposing new tariffs on solar panels, washing machines and other imports – mostly from China.
Trump is due to address Davos on Friday — the first U.S. president to come to the conference in the Swiss skiing village since Bill Clinton in 2000. Modi’s speech echoed that of his greatest economic competitor, China’s Xi Jinping, who last year made an equally spirited defence of globalism (Reuters) after Trump’s election.
Modi pushed his somewhat stalled agenda of “Make In India” , designed to close the gap with China. He said India was removing decades-old protectionist barriers and freeing up the economy: “We are removing red tape and laying the red carpet.”
He identified three areas which he said required global cooperation and reform of major institutions:
– Climate change: “We can see the influence of extreme weather conditions. What should have happened we should have all come out of our limits narrow confines and we should have all demonstrated solidarity.”
– Terrorism: “What is…dangerous is the artificial distinction created between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorists.” All terror needed to be confronted with coordinated international action.
– Globalization itself “is slowly losing its lustre” despite a record of tremendous growth which had seen India’s Gross Domestic Product rise six-fold in the past two decades. “The forces of protectionism are raising their heads against globalisation. Their intention is not only to avoid globalisation themselves but they also want to reverse its natural flow.” He called for reform of the post-war international institutions.
A video recording of Modi’s address is on the WEF website.
Follow our rolling coverage of Davos on Destination Davos.