During the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on January 21, 2020, flags will hang over the entrance to the Davos Congress Hall.
Gerry Miller | CNBC
The Joe Biden government’s recent moves to resume global pacts and organizations should be welcome to the Davos community.
Still, the US is far from “out of the woods” regarding its own domestic political challenges and its fight against the coronavirus pandemic, World Economic Forum President Borge Brende told CNBC.
“There are already new signals from the US government on the climate side that allow re-entry into the Paris Agreement, but also exploring how the US can be transformed into a low-carbon economy are important steps,” Borge told Hadley Gamble of CNBC on Sunday. This and the government’s decision to stop the country’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization were “well received,” he said.
“But we are still in a situation where there are geopolitical confrontations,” said the former Norwegian minister before the WEF’s Davos Agenda Summit this week, which is taking place virtually. “There is a broken world, we’ll see how the US-China relationship will develop in the years to come.”
Some political analysts have identified the US-China relationship as the main geopolitical challenge and question mark for the Biden government. Domestically, too, conditions remain tense on many fronts, and it remains to be seen whether Biden, who advocated unity and national healing, can bridge the deep gulf that has only worsened over the past four years.
“The reality is that we are still facing very polarized US. I don’t think the US is out of the woods on the pandemic. The numbers are really, really bad,” Brende said. “So there will also be a very tough 100 days before President Biden, but I think he has a very experienced team with his cabinet.”
The US currently has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases and the highest reported death toll from any country’s pandemic in the world. More than 419,000 people have now died of the disease in the United States, and record cases remain, well over 25 million since the virus was first identified in the country. The vaccination campaign is running in the country of 330 million, but so far more slowly than originally planned.
In the week following his inauguration, Biden signed a series of ordinances to expedite vaccine distribution, increase testing, and ensure the use of federal mandate masks. The president is now facing new and rapidly spreading varieties of the virus, as well as parts of the population who speak out against coronavirus restrictions and distrust of vaccinations.
“I think there are some lights at the end of the tunnel in general now, not least because of the vaccination and rollout,” Brende said. “But it takes time, we just have to hope that the new variants aren’t immune (to the vaccines).”
Feike Sijbesma, former CEO of the Dutch multinational DSM and member of the WEF Board of Trustees, also highlighted what he saw as important in supporting Biden’s climate action.
“It’s very good news that the The US is back in the Paris Agreement. The Paris Accords over the years have been very focused on mitigating and preventing climate change, and five years later we’re not quite on the right track with the Paris Accords, “Sijbesma told CNBC’s Squawk Box Europe on Monday.” So we need to work on climate adaptation. “
Like Brende, Sijbesma saw the trouble ahead. “It will be a challenge, it is clear that it is a challenge because five years after Paris was not on the right track,” he added.
“But I think in the long run this will create economic growth, it will create jobs, and doing nothing will really hurt our economy.”