- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2003

GENEVA A somber picture of a world threatened by war and economic downturn has emerged from a meeting of capitalism's giants in a Swiss alpine resort.
The five-day World Economic Forum assembly in Davos ended yesterday in a mood of uncertainty and with a dearth of viable solutions.
The prospect of armed intervention in Iraq dominated the lectures and seminars. Speakers criticizing President Bush and his plans received massive applause.
The planned war, most presentations concluded, is likely to further destabilize the economies of capitalist nations while disrupting aid to the starving millions of the Third World.
Among other conclusions of some 2,000 captains of industry, bankers, academics, clergymen and representatives of close to 100 governments were dim prospects for the European Union, pulled down by Germany's economic crisis, a major split between the United States and the European allies over Iraq, and China's emergence as an economic giant soon likely to overtake Europe.
The Liberal French daily Le Monde thus summed up this year's meeting organized by the Swiss-based Forum:
"The strategic, economic and financial fog shrouding the planet is not about to dissipate. Iraq has monopolized all attention. The confidence of the consumer is more and more fragile. No one knows what tomorrow will bring."
Participants noticed an intense anti-American mood, in sharp contrast to the 32 previous meetings.
Those attending the conference particularly referred to Washington's hard-line statements on Iraq, including Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's Sunday address.
Mr. Powell warned that the current state of indecision with Iraq could not continue and that the United States would go to war alone if need be.
To many Europeans, the statement smacked of the much-maligned "unilateralism" increasingly distancing the United States from Europe and much of the Arab world.
Among most positive conclusions shared by conference participants was China's steady economic advance.
According to Gall Foster of the New York-based Conference Board, China's economy will overtake that of the European Union between 2010 and 2020.
One participant described China as "the only great country actually advancing with both feet," citing China's 8 percent growth last year.
According to statistics quoted in Davos, China's investments are advancing at a rate of 20 percent annually, and in 2020 China was responsible for 60 percent of the growth of world trade, while its steel production surpassed that of the United States and Japan combined.
A number of conference participants noted paltry economic results by European nations, particularly in view of the optimism recorded during previous forum meetings.
According to Jurgen von Hagen, an economist from Bonn University, the European Union's growth rate has fallen below all earlier predictions, from an annual 3 percent to 1.8 percent.
Mr. von Hagen described Germany's reform plans as "a lot of rhetoric and cosmetic changes."
The fear of continuing increases in the price of oil was as pervasive in Davos as that of war in Iraq.
Some observers pointed out, however, that the nature of the oil crisis depended mainly on the length of the expected war.

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