US President Donald Trump today declared before a full house at Davos that he has made “15 new friends” whom he did not know before at a dinner last night –including three of Indian origin. After a ‘band’ welcome and a nearly 20-minute speech, Trump sat down for a brief question and answers session with WEF Founder Klaus Schwab on the last day of the annual pow-wow of rich and powerful from across the ‘fractured’ world and began by complementing him for putting together this “really great” economic forum. Trump, who arrived here yesterday afternoon, told Schwab — who on his part said the US President’s strong leadership is open to misconceptions and biased interpretations — that he has made “15 new friends” here in Davos. “We had dinner last night with about 15 leaders of industry — none of whom I knew, but all of whom I have read about for years — and it was truly an incredible group,” Trump said. “And I think I have 15 new friends. So this has been really great what you have done in putting it together, the economic forum,” he said. These 15 industry leaders from Europe — whom Trump described as “very powerful businesspeople of the world” and asked them to introduce themselves one by one and say a few words at the dinner table, as per a White House release —included Swiss pharma giant Novartis’ incoming CEO Vas Narasimhan, Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri and Deloitte CEO Punit Renjen. Others were heads of Bayer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Siemens, AB Volvo, SAP, Adidas, Statoil, Nestle, ABB and HSBC. At the dinner, Renjen said, “Mr President, thank you for having me. Punit Renjen from Deloitte. On behalf of 265,000 employees across the globe, 70,000 in the US, thank you again for having us”. As per the White House release, Trump replied, “Great company. Thank you very much. Great job.” Suri said Nokia runs the world’s second largest telecom network and has 15,000 people in the US and one of its strongest R&D setups in the world is spread throughout the US.
He further said, “We have half of the acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent. We own Nokia Bell Labs, which is in New Jersey. We do a lot of stuff in the West Coast, in Chicago, and throughout the country, really. So just under half of our people do research and development, and the rest are doing services and 4G networks and 5G. So I’m very happy and pleased with your infrastructure focus…” Narasimhan said Novartis is one of the largest health care companies in the world and its focus is on innovative medicines, generics, as well as eye care. He elaborated that Novartis has about 22,000 employees in the US across 21 sites and invests about USD 14 billion every year in the US, including USD 3.5 billion in research. Further, he described US as one of the key markets and also key places where it drives innovation. “And we are really pleased with the tax reform, but also very pleased with the great progress being made at FDA. We believe you have a great leadership team there and they are doing all the right things to accelerate innovation,” he said. Trump replied, “Scott is great, and Alex is great. You know, Alex is just starting, and he’s highly respected. So that’s fantastic. Scott Gottlieb, as you know, is a star,” referring to his FDA Commissioner and Health and Human Services Secretary, respectively. Narasimhan said further, “He (Scott) is a star. And I think his vision for tobacco and trying to improve — reduce the use of tobacco around the world is also very inspiring.” After everyone’s introduction, Trump said, “I want to thank everybody. Really, you have done incredible work, incredible jobs. These are some of the great companies of the world, many of the great companies of the world”.