Davos 2019 day one: Huawei chairman said trade war is slowing sales, Microsoft CEO talked tech's impact on humanity

  • The world’s elite converged on Davos, Switzerland, this week for the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting.
  • This year’s theme is “Globalization 4.0,” which promotes more inclusive societies and better protections for vulnerable communities.
  • On Monday, Britain’s Prince William interviewed conservationist David Attenborough about the impact humans have on nature, and tech CEOs talked of the industry’s effect on the world economy and privacy of citizens.

World leaders, business chieftains, and other dignitaries converged in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday for the first day of the 2019 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting.

The annual gathering in the Alps is a weeklong mix of speeches, networking, and parties among the most powerful and wealthy people in the world. This year’s theme: “Globalization 4.0.”

Speakers, panelists, and other attendees spoke about the human impact on the natural world, the slowing global economy, and how the US-China trade war is impacting tech companies.

Here are some of the highlights from Davos 2019 so far:

The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting began Tuesday, January 22, and will run until Friday, January 25.


Key speakers include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Here is a list of all other world leaders attending.

Temperatures are below freezing, and, as usual, security is tight.

A snow storm is wreaking havoc locally, but the event’s aim is one of calm togetherness.

Huawei, the Chinese telecom company at the center of an international dispute, was in the spotlight.

Ken Hu, the deputy chairman of Huawei, and other senior executives appeared at the conference as the company’s chief financial officer (CFO), Meng Wanzhou, is under house arrest in Canada. She is accused of carrying out dealings with Iran in violation of US sanctions.

There have also been concerns in the US over Huawei’s ties to the Chinese government and allegations that its equipment can be used for spying on other nations – something Huawei denies.

Hu appeared calm and composed during his talk at Davos and mostly spoke about 5G wireless technology. He also said the company has seen a damaging effect on its business because of the US-China trade war.

Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat spoke on a panel entitled “Shaping a New Market Architecture.”

Porat told the audience that data “is more like sunlight than oil,” an attempt to reframe the debate about privacy and user data in positive terms. She said Google, of which Alphabet is the parent company, would support privacy legislation in the US and would like users to trust the company is “doing what we should.”

Outside of the Davos congress center, where the annual conference is held, an advertisement for India’s “Trillion Dollar Digital Economy” is seen.

Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

This year, more than 100 CEOs from India will be attending Davos. The country is expected to have the fastest-growing economy for the next two years, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Britain’s Prince William interviewed legendary documentary-maker and conservationist David Attenborough.


The two talked about the way humans have impacted nature and the changes that Attenborough, 92, has seen throughout his decadeslong career as a TV show presenter.

“We are now so numerous, so all-pervasive, the mechanisms that we have for destruction are so wholesale and so frightening, that we can actually just exterminate whole ecosystems without even noticing it,” Attenborough said. “We are destroying the natural world, and with that ourselves.”

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said technology has an impact on “everything around us.”

Nadella told the crowd, “Markets work, but there are limits, we have to deal with the decoupling between economic growth, jobs, and wages – each of us will have to play a role. This is one of the challenges of our time.”

President Emmanuel Macron of France also hosted Nadella, along with Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon at a pre-Davos dinner in Versailles, France. Macron, though, is not planning on attending the conference this year, sitting it out along with other leaders, including President Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

The conference’s continued gender inequality: Only 22% of participants are women.


Last year, 21% of attendees were women – so not much has changed in regard to gender equality at the conference.

Back in Davos, my fifth. The weather changes every year and so do the leaders taking the stage. Gender imbalance remains (only 22% of participants are female). I was in a session this morning with 88 audience members, five panelists and 10 staff. I counted SEVEN women. #WEF2019

– Ivana Kottasová (@IvanaKottasova) January 22, 2019

Bill Gates spoke on how the world will pay for global health.

Bill Gates, cofounder of Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, spoke about the importance of vaccine accessibility in low-income countries for children under the age of 10 at Davos on Tuesday.

He was alongside other panelists for the “Financial Innovation for Global Health” roundtable, including Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the cochair of Gavi, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and the director of the World Health Organisation.

Gates talked about precision medicine’s inability to work on a large scale and how prescription-drug prices can be managed with taxes.

“People are more likely to perceive the bad news and don’t see so much what has already improved,” he said.

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