On the final day of the World Economic Forum in Davos, an all-star panel, moderated by Bloomberg's Francine Lacqua, convened to discuss the global economic outlook

The panel boasted a lineup of eminent figures, including the ECB's Christine Lagarde, Germany's Finance Minister Christian Lindner, Carlyle Group's David M Rubenstein, World Trade Organisation Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Saudi Finance Minister Mohamed El Jadan, and Singapore's President Tharman Shanmugaratnam

Lagarde: Consumption slowing, trade picking up

Lagarde highlighted the normalisation witnessed in 2023, noting a less tight labour market and a decrease in excess savings. Furthermore, Lagarde noted that around the world, excluding the euro area, inflation is on a downward trend

"Consumption is not as strong force as it used to be," the ECB President said, pointing to the recent rise in global trade numbers

However, WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala expressed concerns about the impact of geopolitical conflicts and climate change on major trade routes such as the Red Sea and the Suez and Panama Canals. She highlighted the difficulties in forecasting because  of these uncertainties and the various global elections

Lindner: A 'new normal' for the global economy

Lindner spoke about the resilience of the German economy, particularly in reinventing its energy infrastructure over the past 18 months, following the war in Ukraine

He emphasised the emergence of a "new normal" for the global economy, characterised by rising artificial intelligence and geopolitical tensions

Rubenstein on US elections and Trump's impact

David Rubenstein weighed in on the US economic and political landscape, expecting three rate cuts by the Federal Reserve this year and acknowledging Trump as a serious political force

"I wouldn't rule out his possibly getting elected again," he said

Rubenstein also predicted that the bilateral relationship between the US and China is not expected to improve this year

"There is no political benefit in the United States in saying anything beneficial or goo about China during a presidential election year," he stated

Europe's response to a potential Trump presidency

In response to David M Rubenstein's remarks about the potential of a second Trump presidency, Lindner emphasised the importance of Europe focusing on its own competitiveness and self-reliance.

Lindner suggested that Europe should prepare for any outcome in the US political arena by strengthening its economic position and defence capabilities, thereby ensuring a strong partnership with the United States, regardless of its administration

"Doing our homework is the best preparation ... being an attractive partner on eye level when it comes to economic situations," he advised

The ECB's Lagarde echoed a similar sentiment, stating that the "best defence is the attack"

Lagarde's approach suggested Europe's best strategy in facing a potential Trump presidency, or any external political challenge, is to fortify its own economic and political structures through "a strong, deep and real (European) market

Responses to climate change

The panel also delved into approaches to tackling climate change. Singapore's President Tharman Shanmugaratnam called for the implementation of global carbon taxes and suggested that governments could augment revenues through increased taxation

Reacting to this, Germany's Christian Lindner said: "I hope nobody tells my coalition partners and colleagues in cabinet that we are here considering raising taxes." He believes a viable alternative to a carbon tax is establishing a carbon market

Lindner further emphasised the importance of enhancing productivity to meet the challenges of transitioning to greener practices, combating poverty and addressing the needs of an aging society. He championed structural reforms in the labour market and technological sector"Germany is not the sick man. Germany is more a tired man," he said

After a successful streak since 2012 and enduring recent crises, Germany's Finan Minister Lindner sees the current phase as a vital wake-up call. He likens structural reforms to a "good cup of coffee", essential for continuing Germany's economic success