Every year, the world's richest and most powerful business executives, bankers, media heads and politicians sit down in some luxurious and heavily guarded venue, and discuss how to shape the world in a way that maximizes profits for all involved, while perpetuating a status quo that has been highly beneficial for a select few, even if it means the ongoing destruction of the middle class. We are talking, of course, about the annual, and always secretive, Bilderberg meeting. And just like last year's meeting in Dresden, the primary topic on the agenda of this year's 65th Bilderberg Meeting which starts today and ends on Sunday, is one: Donald Trump. Ironically, this year "the storm around Donald Trump" as the SCMP puts it, is not half way around the world, but just a few miles west of the White House, in a conference centre in Chantilly, Virginia, where the embattled president will be getting his end-of-term grades from the people whose opinion actually matters: some 130 participating "Bilderbergs". The secretive three-day summit of the political and economic elite kicks off Thursday in heavily guarded seclusion at the Westfields Marriot, a luxury hotel a short distance from the Oval Office...
As of Wednesday, the hotel was already on lockdown and an army of landscapers have been busy planting fir trees around the perimeter, to try protect "coy billionaires and bashful bank bosses" from prying lenses and/or projectiles. Perched ominously at the top of the conference agenda this year are these words: “The Trump Administration: A progress report”.
So is the president going to be put in detention for tweeting in class? Held back a year? Or told to empty his locker and leave? If ever there’s a place where a president could hear the words “you’re fired!”, it’s Bilderberg.
Sarcasm aside, the White House was taking no chances, sending along some big hitters from Team Trump to defend their boss: national security adviser, HR McMaster; the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross; and Trump’s new strategist, Chris Liddell (curiously, neither Gary Cohn nor Steven Mnuchin will be there although the controversial new Chairman of Goldman Sachs International, Jose Barroso will be present). Could Trump himself show up to receive his report card in person: we are confident he will tweet all about it, which is probably why he will never be invited.
Stil, none other than Henry Kissinger, the gravel-throated kingpin of Bilderberg, visited the White House a few weeks ago to discuss “Russia and other things”, and certainly, the Bilderberg conference would be the perfect opportunity for the most powerful man in the world to discuss important global issues with Trump...
# Sarcasm aside, what are among the "Trump agenda" items to be discussed? The publicly list is as follows:
- The Trump Administration: A progress report
- Trans-Atlantic relations: options and scenarios
- The Trans-Atlantic defence alliance: bullets, bytes and bucks
- The direction of the EU
- Can globalisation be slowed down?
- Jobs, income and unrealised expectations
- The war on information
- Why is populism growing?
- Russia in the international order
- The Near East
- Nuclear proliferation
- Current events
The US president’s extraordinary chiding of NATO leaders in Brussels is sure to be first and foremost on the Bilderberg discussing panel. The Bilderbergers have summoned the head of Nato, Jens Stoltenberg, to give feedback. Stoltenberg will be leading the snappily titled session on “The Transatlantic defence alliance: bullets, bytes and bucks”. He’ll be joined by the Dutch minister of defence and a clutch of senior European politicians and party leaders, all hoping to reset the traumatised transatlantic relationship after Trump’s galumphing visit.
As the Guardian puts it, the guest list for this year’s conference is a veritable “covfefe” of big-hitters from geopolitics, from the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, to the king of Holland, but perhaps the most significant name on the list is Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the US.
# According to the meeting’s agenda, “China” will also be discussed at a summit attended by Cui, the US commerce secretary, the US national security adviser, two US senators, the governor of Virginia, two former CIA chiefs and any number of giant US investors in China, including the heads of the financial services firms the Carlyle Group and KKR. And for good reason: as last night's PMI numbers showed, the Chinese economy, the global growth dynamo, is finally contracting. If China goes, the rest of the world will follow. The boss of Google Eric Schmidt, who warned in January that Trump’s administration will do “evil things”, is expected to attend, too. The executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s holding company, has just come back from a trip to Beijing, where he was overseeing Google AI’s latest game of Go against humans. He declared it “a pleasure to be back in China, a country that I admire a great deal”. It’s possible three days spent chatting to the Chinese ambassador could even be good for business.
Several journalists are participating in this year’s forum, including London Evening Standard editor George Osborne and Cansu Camlibel, the Washington bureau chief for Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper. But per convention, news outlets are not invited to cover the event.
“There is no desired outcome, no minutes are taken and no report is written,” the group stated. “No resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken, and no policy statements are issued.”
Ex-deputy secretary of state William Burns and former deputy assistant secretary of defence Elaine Bunn, both Obama-era officials, will also attend. Burns, the current president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has warned that Trump “risks hollowing out the ideas, initiative and institutions on which US leadership and international order rest.”
With one of the agenda items titled simply enough "can globalisation be slowed down?" it is no surprise that anti-globalisation protesters have already descended on the location of the meeting.
*) Here is a full list of this year's participants....