The World Economic Forum 2019 begins, Theresa May faces her latest Brexit battle, Vladimir Putin has a busy week while France and Germany renew a friendship treaty.


Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan will represent China at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, with risks to global growth high on the agenda.  

Leaders from Japan, Germany, Brazil, Rwanda, and New Zealand are among the high profile political attendees, with famous faces from Bill Gates and Al Gore to Christine Lagarde and David Blaine also scheduled to take part.

The U.S. scrapped plans to send a delegation, blaming an ongoing government shutdown which will be one month old on Tuesday. There is growing acknowledgement that the shutdown could severely damage U.S. economic growth as well as President Donald Trump’s approval ratings, which have slipped below 40 points.

The International Monetary Fund is due to release updated global growth figures on Monday, meanwhile, analysts will be looking out for new data from China. The country’s growth figures for 2017 were revised down last week, from 6.9 to 6.8 percent.

UK MPs to Take Control?

British Prime Minister Theresa May is due to reveal a renewed plan for Brexit on Monday, after her original deal was crushed by MPs last week. She could tack towards her own hardline MPs, reach out to opposition members with a plan to stay in the customs union, or stick to her guns and offer a tweaked version of her existing deal.

Whichever direction she chooses will alienate some in her Conservative Party. Newspaper reports on Sunday suggested she planned to try to win over hardline members by offering the Republic of Ireland a bilateral deal that removes the contentious “Irish backstop” from the withdrawal deal. Whether Ireland, the EU, or MPs would agree to such a plan is far from certain.

On Monday, MPs will table various amendments that could take the Brexit issue out of May’s hands. One plan would see MPs take control of the parliamentary business, allowing them, rather than the government, to push through legislation.

Amendments including a call to suspend Article 50, rule out a no-deal, and pursue a second referendum are likely to be voted on – along with May’s new plan – on January 29.

Russia, Syria & Japan

The U.S. withdrawal from Syria is underway, and the next moves of Russia – which welcomed Trump’s decision in December – will be closely watched.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold talks with another key player in the region, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Wednesday and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets the UN’s new Syrian envoy Geir Pedersen on Monday.

It’s a busy week for Putin, who will begin it by holding talks over a peace treaty with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Moscow.

Both leaders have indicated they want a deal, but early signs are not encouraging as negotiations between Lavrov and his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono last week ended without a joint press conference.

France – Germany 2019

The leaders of France and Germany, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, will meet in the border city of Aachen on Tuesday to sign a new friendship pact.

One of the reasons for signing a new treaty – an update on the Elysee treaty, signed 56 years ago – is the role the countries play in the European Union, according to Merkel, who said the pact would “give momentum to European unity.” The Franco-German axis is influential in getting things done in the EU, but attempts by Macron to reform the bloc have yielded few results so far.

Other EU members aren’t prepared to let France and Germany dominate. With populists expected to perform well in May’s European Parliament elections, Italy’s powerful interior minister Matteo Salvini has called for a “European Spring” to replace the Franco-German axis.

Day by Day

Monday: Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan visits Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum 2019, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen continues a four-day visit to China, British PM Theresa May outlines her Brexit “plan B”, Japanese PM Shinzo Abeholds talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, EU-Russia-Ukraine talks on gas transit and EU-ASEAN talks take place in Brussels, and the IMF releases updated global growth forecasts.

Tuesday: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gives a speech and the Belt and Road Initiative is discussed as the World Economic Forum 2019 begins in Davos, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel sign a new Franco-German friendship treaty, Pakistani PM Imran Khan is expected to visit Qatar, and the U.S. government shutdown is one month old.

Wednesday: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hold talks on Syria in Moscow, while Wang, Abe, and Merkel give speeches at Davos.

Thursday: Heads of Malaysia’s nine royal households elect a new king after Sultan Muhammad V’s abdication, Sudan hosts peace talks between the Central African Republic government and 14 opposition factions, while UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, Italian PM Giuseppe Conte, and Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez give speeches at Davos.

Friday: UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues Fernand de Varennes holds a press conference in Madrid.

Saturday: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is the Chief Guest as India marks its 70th Republic Day.

Sunday: French President Macron is expected to visit Egypt.