DAVOS, Switzerland — German Chancellor Angela Merkel evoked the two world wars and questioned whether the West had learned the lessons from those conflicts.
Merkel has told WEF delegates that "the right-wing populism is a poison."
“We are seeing nationalism, populism and in a lot of countries a polarized atmosphere,” Merkel told the packed auditorium where US president Trump will speak on Friday.
“We believe that isolation won’t help us. We believe we need to cooperate, that protectionism is not the answer,” she said, asking: “Have we really learned from history, or haven’t we?”
France’s Emmanuel Macron called for more global cooperation to harness the forces of globalization.
Macron spoke for a full hour, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd of CEOs, bankers and top academics, after he called for a “global compact” to address the economic forces that have led to rising inequality and a surge in populism.
“We have a situation where people are being told, on social and financial issues, that the answer is to do less, to cut our taxes, there is no limit, it’s a race to the bottom,” Macron said, weeks after Trump pushed through a large cut in corporate taxes that is expected to lure investment to the United States.
“If we aren’t able to agree a standard of international cooperation, we will never convince the middle class, the working class that globalization is good for them.”
Pressed on what his message to Trump would be, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said it was legitimate to defend one’s own citizens, companies and economic, but “there is a limit”.
After suffering a series of crises over the past decade -- from euro turmoil, to Ukraine, refugees and Brexit -- Europe is feeling confident again.
Its economy has rebounded and the election of pro-European centrist Macron in France has injected new momentum into efforts to reform the European Union.
“Europe has been a phenomenal story this year,” Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff told the forum this week.
Macron, switching between English and French, took several tongue-in-cheek swipes at Trump, with whom he’s formed an odd bond since the two engaged in a bone-crushing macho handshake in their first meeting back in May.
At the outset of his speech, the 40-year-old French president joked about heavy snowfall in Davos, saying it might lead some people to question whether global warming was really a problem.
“Fortunately you didn’t invite anybody skeptical of global warming this year,” Macron, glancing over at WEF founder Klaus Schwab, said to laughs.