As one observes the international activities of President Trump, one must admire his tenacity, focus, and, let it be said, his successes. Far from isolating himself from the world, as many media reports had suggested, President Trump is becoming increasingly well entrenched in his world leadership role. Far from other leaders running away from him, they increasingly can to rub against his cloth in order to achieve at least symbolic proximity.
I will demonstrate this with two examples taken from his activities in the last five days, taken from the international business field alone – alone – so no need to worry about another discussion of the Deputy FBI director’s resignation.: One was the Trump visit to Davos, Switzerland, where business leaders, policy makers and think tank figures met to exchange ideas and plans , combining mostly in the fields of business, investment, trade, and the macro policies which are promoted to address problems perhaps too large for any country alone. Media sages predicted an outcast Trump with no audience, no interest and no influence.
Well, the contrary occurred. One President Trump had announced his attendance, the list of attendees from other nations was upgraded by title and influence – Trumps presence led to a strengthening of Davos. Those that had referred to the Trump experience of a cold shoulder must have been very chagrined by the discussion between Trump and Klaus Schwab – the founder and head of the World Economic Forum. Schwab showered considerable praise on Trump and his first year achievements, a claim that was widely repeated to high ranking members of business and policy.
In an elegant turnaround, chroniclers of Davos found one new thought and explanation. Trump is wealthy and in business, so no wonder the other attendees liked him, they are birds of the same feather. No matter that many business people, a year ago, were concerned about what the novice politician would do. Turns out, Trump was not blessed with predicted naiveté, but rather had some meaningful plans, many of which he shepherded forward. Far from being a disaster, Davos was a Trump triumph.
The second example comes from the State of the Union address. Again, many predictions were negative, ranging from limited content to rising attendance boycotts. Well, again something must have been wrong with the crystal ball. The speech was elegant, strong and inspiring. Trump used his great talent as a story teller to introduce modern day heroes to Congress, America and the world, and was able to communicate a feeling of pride, comfort, and leadership. How could anyone avoid applauding – and as we know, when the applause comes you’ve done at least some winning over.
But the strongest part of the President’s speech consisted of what he didn’t say. Let me first tell a story myself. In London, on Jermyn Street I went into a haberdashery to buy a cotton shirt. They were very expensive and I asked the salesman to prove that they were worth the money. He explained that all luxury shirts have some extra buttons sewn in, so that in case of loss, there would be a replacement available. Now come the evidence: His shirts did not have any spare buttons, because theirs did not fall off. The absence of even good things can be of substantial proof.
The speech, about 80 minutes long, had only two minutes worth of comments on trade and globalization. We know how important jobs, international competition and competitiveness are to the President. The lack of mention shows that he is convinced that res ipsa loquitur – things speak for themselves. The economy is not limping along but on a definite fast track. Production sites are re-located back to the United States. Innovation, concentration and investments give our companies and their employees new wings.
So at the end of his first year in office, Trump has reason to be proud and we can accept his moments of exuberance – unusual perhaps but deservedly present. Let me reiterate what I consider the strongest line in the speech: Americans are dreamers too. Let’s keep it that way!
Michael Czinkota teaches international business and trade at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the University of Kent. His key book (with Ilkka Ronkainen) is “International Marketing” (10th ed., CENGAGE).