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Modi a counterweight to Trump’s protectionism
January 24, 2018, 9:36 am

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi delivering his keynote speech, at the plenary session of the World Economic Forum, in Davos on January 23, 2018 [PMO, India]


Irony was a guest at the 48th World Economic Forum on Monday when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to the stage to deliver a blistering defense of free trade just as the US announced additional tariffs on Chinese solar panels, washing machines, and aluminum and steel exports.

But Modi deftly navigated the increasing protectionist measures taken by the US since US President Donald Trump won the elections.

“The negative impact of this kind of mindset cannot be considered less dangerous than climate change or terrorism,” Modi told world leaders and delegates in Davos.

Modi has clout. India is a central member of BRICS, a growing and persistent economic power and a destination for global investors.

It’s little surprise that in 2018, Modi became the first Indian prime minister to deliver the keynote speech; he is the first Indian prime minister to attend the Davos forum in 20 years.

It’s also not surprising that the theme of the World Economic Forum this year is “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World”.

Modi warned that if the world did not cooperate on free trade, combating terrorism and protecting the environment, there won’t be much of a future to share.

Addressing the multi-faceted fractures which challenge global growth and development, Modi said that there is a divide between the requirements of today and the needs of conservation for future.

“However, the only hope is that we all want to tackle them. We want to see a co-operative, harmonious, sharing and caring world. In fact, this is where the hope lies.”

To this end, Modi said: “India has always seen the domestic and the global as mutually reinforcing and inseparable parts of the same organic arrangement.”

“Forces of protectionism are raising their heads against globalization,” he added. “It feels like the opposite of globalization is happening.”

Modi’s words carry traction. India’s 2018 growth forecast is 7.3 per cent, while the forecast for 2019 is 7.5.

The is welcome news to Modi who had been severely criticized for his demonitization campaign in fall 2016 as a principal reason for the economy lagging.

Counterweight

Analysts see India’s Modi as a counterweight to Trump, who is expected to arrive in Davos at the end of the week now that American legislators have agreed on a bill to reopen the stalled US government.

But Modi’s statements also echo the sentiments of fellow BRICS member China, and not coincidentally.

Last year, Xi Jinping became the first Chinese President to address and participate in the World Economic Forum.

Don’t pursue your own interests at the expense of others, Xi told world leaders in staunch support of multilateralism and globalization in 2017.

The Chinese president emphasized that globalization should not be blamed for the lackluster performance of the global economy.

He said that new models of global growth and comprehensive cooperation could overcome inadequate global economic governance and unequal development.

Xi also stressed that protectionism (and isolationism) were not the answers to the global economic crisis and warned taking such measures was akin to locking oneself in a dark room.

By Firas Al-Atraqchi with inputs from Agencies

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