DAVOS, Switzerland — Donald Trump will bring his "America First" message into a den of internationalist lions this week when he becomes the first sitting U.S. president in nearly 20 years to attend the glitzy annual confab held in this Alpine resort.
The World Economic Forum that runs from Tuesday through Friday draws many of the world's top politicians, thinkers, celebrities, corporate chieftains and opinion leaders who may not be receptive to his isolationist views.
Trump's audience at the 48th annual meeting will include more than 3,000 participants from 110 countries — 70 heads of state and government, 1,900 business leaders, 45 heads of international organizations. Their goal, the forum said, is to "improve the state of the world."
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is joining Trump here, told reporters the president will talk about his "America First" economic strategy.
"Why is Trump even choosing to go to a forum that at best is going to give him a frosty reception and could even be openly hostile?" said Davos veteran Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Markit consultants in London.
"The hope is that if he gives a full-bodied defense of 'America First' he will also be conciliatory. If not, it could get confrontational."
Philip Jennings, general secretary of UNI Global Union, a Swiss-based organization that represents 20 million workers around the world, questioned why Trump would attend a conference whose theme of global cooperation — "Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World" — runs counter to his views.
"Trump is Exhibit A of our fractured world," Jennings said. "His 'America First' economic agenda has aggravated any sense of a shared future."
Trump has pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord and the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, saying they are bad for America. He wants to renegotiate NAFTA with Mexico and Canada to make it more favorable for the U.S. He has threatened to withdraw from an international accord with Iran that freezes its nuclear weapons program.
Still, Trump will be warmly received by business leaders in attendance, predicted Tim Ryan, the U.S. chairman of PwC, a consultancy.
"The majority of executives I meet with are very pleased with what the White House has done around tax reform and deregulation — Trump will be applauded for that," Ryan said. "The business community is eager to see what he does next."
Trump is scheduled to give the gathering's final address Friday. The last president to appear at the event was Bill Clinton in 2000.
Trump may be Davos' headline act, but French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could steal the show. Both are scheduled to give major speeches about global integration.
At last year's forum, Chinese President Xi Jinping defended free trade in a speech that underscored his desire to play a greater global role as Trump retreats.
Among this year's subjects: cyberattacks, sustainable growth, migration, climate change, nuclear deterrence, social networks and crises ranging from North Korea's nuclear program to Venezuela's economic meltdown.
"I'll be there to talk to governments and banks about how investing in nuclear weapons needs to stop," said Beatrice Fihn, director of the Geneva-based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.
This year, 21% of participants will be women and, for the first time, all seven co-chairs of the summit will be female. They include Norway Prime Minister Erna Solberg and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde.
This change follows past criticism that Davos lacked sufficient female representation and ongoing campaigns against sexual harassment and unequal pay for women.
Mara Swan, executive vice president at ManpowerGroup, a global Milwaukee-based recruitment firm, said women in leadership roles is a positive thing but also a "little odd and an over-correction" to have no men as co-chairs. "Men have to be part of the solution. We work together. We have to be together," she said.