Who said what at the World Economic Forum (WEF)

Who said what at the World Economic Forum (WEF)

Who said what at the World Economic Forum (WEF)

People attend the 54th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, January 18, 2024. 

Denis Balibouse | Reuters

The potential for generative artificial intelligence, when interest rates might be cut, and the ongoing wars in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip were key topics at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week.

Business and political leaders also discussed global trade, climate change and what might happen if former President Donald Trump returns to the White House this year.

Here’s a rundown of who said what.

Ursula von der Leyen

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during the 54th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 16, 2024. 

Denis Balibouse | Reuters

An increasingly isolated Russia now relies on China for both its military and economic ends, the European Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen said Tuesday.

“Russia is now dependent on China,” she said during an address at WEF, adding that Russia is failing on its strategic goals.

“It is first and foremost a military failure,” she said, noting that Ukraine had thus far retained its “freedom and independence” in its almost two-year war with Moscow.

Jamie Dimon

Jamie Dimon, President & CEO,Chairman & CEO JPMorgan Chase, speaking on CNBC’s Squawk Box at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 17th, 2024.

Adam Galici | CNBC

Bitcoin does nothing, according to JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. “I call it the pet rock,” he told CNBC on the sidelines of WEF in Davos.

“There’s a cryptocurrency which might actually do something,” Dimon said of smart chain-enriched blockchains. “And then there’s one which does nothing.

When asked what he made of BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s change of heart on bitcoin — after the world’s largest asset manager filed an application for a bitcoin ETF — Dimon said, “I don’t care. So just please stop talking about this s***.”

Dimon also spoke about Ukraine’s war with Russia following a meeting with its President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “We have to teach the American public that this is about freedom and democracy for the free world, and that’s where the battle is being fought,” he said. “This is ‘America first’.”

Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks with CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 16th, 2024.

Adam Galici | CNBC

“One man has stolen at least 13 years of peace, replacing them with pain, pain, pain and crisis that impact the entire world,” Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy told delegates in a keynote speech in Davos on Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin “embodies war,” Zelenskyy said, adding: “he will not change.”

During his address, he also decried the failure of Western allies to sanction Russia’s nuclear industry. “It’s a clear weakness of the West that Russia’s nuclear industry is still not under global sanctions, even though Putin is the only terrorist in the world who took a nuclear power plant hostage,” Zelenskyy said.

Javier Milei

Argentina’s President Javier Milei delivers a speech at the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos on January 17, 2024. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

Fabrice Coffrini | Afp | Getty Images

Argentina’s President Javier Milei, a self-described “anarcho-capitalist,” called on business and political leaders at Davos to reject socialism.

“Today, I’m here to tell you that the Western world is in danger,” Milei said Wednesday, according to a translation.

“And it is in danger because those who are supposed to have to defend the values of the West are co-opted by a vision of the world that inexorably leads to socialism, and thereby to poverty,” he added.

Adena Friedman

Adena Friedman, CEO & Board Chair NASDAQ, speaking on CNBC’s Squawk Box at the WEF Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 16th, 2024.

Adam Galici | CNBC

Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman said she believes the Federal Reserve should be wary of cutting interest rates too soon. 

Speaking at a CNBC-moderated panel at WEF, Friedman said Tuesday that while “there are a lot of signals that would say that there should be rate [cuts] as we go through the year, the question is when they would start. And if I were the Fed, I would be a little concerned about starting too early.”

She explained that while inflation was heading in the “right direction of travel,” the Fed would also expect this to moderate, making it harder to bring rates down.

Sam Altman

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, attends the 54th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 18, 2024.

Denis Balibouse | Reuters

OpenAI founder and CEO Sam Altman spoke about the potential for artificial general intelligence (AGI), saying: “It will change the world much less than we all think and it will change jobs much less than we all think.”

He said AGI could be developed in the “reasonably close-ish future,” speaking at a private gathering at the Bloomberg House in Davos, Switzerland.

Altman also described being fired from OpenAI as “wild,” saying he felt “super confused” and was “super caught off guard.”

Concerns over AI safety and OpenAI’s role in protecting were at the center of Altman’s brief ouster from the company.

Antony Blinken

Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State, speaks with CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin at the WEF Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 16th, 2024.

Adam Galici | CNBC

Putin has “precipitated virtually everything he sought to prevent,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said of the Russian president’s decision to invade Ukraine.

“Ukraine has been a profound strategic failure for Vladimir Putin and for Russia, in so many ways,” he added, speaking during a panel discussion on Wednesday.

Blinken also criticized Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. The former U.S. president restored wide-ranging sanctions against the country instead.

“It was a big mistake to tear up the Iran nuclear agreement. We had Iran’s nuclear program in a box. Since the agreement was torn up, it’s escaped from that box. And we’re now in a place where we didn’t want to be,” Blinken said.

Christine Lagarde

President of the European Central Bank (ECB) Christine Lagarde attends a session on the closing day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, on January 19, 2024. 

Fabrice Coffrini | Afp | Getty Images

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said she expects this year to be one of economic “non-normality,” after seeing the “beginning of normalization” in 2023.

Speaking on a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Friday, she said consumption, trade and inflation began to normalize last year, after a post-pandemic period that she described as “strange, extraordinary and difficult to analyze.”

The pandemic reduced consumer spending meaning people had excess savings, while global trade was also disrupted. In October 2022, euro zone inflation reached 10.6% but dropped off in 2023, rising again to 2.9% in December.

While these trends represent a “normalization,” Lagarde added that “it is not normality that we are heading to.”

Emmanuel Macron

France’s President Emmanuel Macron delivers remarks, during the 54th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, January 17, 2024. 

Denis Balibouse | Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday that Europe must be more assertive on the world stage ahead of the U.S. elections this year.

“2024 will be a pivotal year for Europeans. We must prove that we can be more visible, make more efforts, whatever happens in the United States,” he said, according to a translation.

Macron also expressed concerns about what the election could mean for U.S.-China tensions.

“The great risk for Europeans is that they would end up with the wrong agenda,” he said.

Dmytro Kuleba

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba gestures during a discussion at the World Economic Forum 2022 (WEF) in the Alpine resort of Davos, Switzerland May 25, 2022. 

Arnd Wiegmann | Reuters

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told CNBC Thursday that he does not think there would be a big shift in support away from his country if Trump is re-elected later this year.

“So do I believe there is a potential for [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and Trump to agree on something behind Ukraine’s back if Trump becomes president? I don’t,” he said.

Kuleba also said the atmosphere in Davos was positive. “People are looking for solutions instead of endlessly discussing problems,” he said.

Michelle Yeoh

Michelle Yeoh, winner of the Best Actress in a Leading Role award for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” poses in the press room during the 95th Annual Academy Awards on March 12, 2023 in Hollywood, California.

Mike Coppola | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Pedro Sanchez 

Spanish acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez during the investiture debate at the Spanish Parliament on Nov. 15, 2023 in Madrid, Spain.

Isabel Infantes | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The rise of far-right political groups is the “biggest concern” for Western democracies, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told CNBC.

“I think that not only the [political] fragmentation, but the advance of the far-right, it is something … I would say [it is] the biggest concern for Western democracies,” he said Wednesday.

Ahead of European Parliament elections this year, Sanchez said that having more progressive or center seats than far-right seats would be “easier for all of us, the Commission, the Council and of course, the European Parliament.”

Li Qiang

Li Qiang, China’s premier, delivers a special address on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Chinese Premier Li Qiang called for greater “cooperation in innovation,” during an address to the World Economic Forum on Tuesday.

“Scientific and technological fruits should benefit humanity as a whole, instead of becoming a means to restrict or contain the development of other countries,” he said, according to an official translation of his remarks.

Li did not name countries in his speech, but Beijing has repeatedly asked Washington to remove restrictions on Chinese companies that prevent them from buying advanced technology from U.S. firms.

Li said the Chinese economy grew by around 5.2% in 2023. “In promoting economic development, we did not resort to massive stimulus. We did not seek short-term growth while accumulating long-term risks,” he added.

Isaac Herzog

Israeli President Isaac Herzog gestures as he sits next to a photograph showing 10-month-old baby Kfir Bibas held by Hamas during a session of the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos on January 18, 2024.

Fabrice Coffrini | Afp | Getty Images

Israeli President Isaac Herzog warned that Israel is holding back threats in the Middle East that could otherwise spread to Europe and the United States.

“If Israel were not there, Europe would be next … and the United States is next too,” he said on Thursday, addressing Israel’s ongoing war against Palestinian militant group Hamas and Lebanese faction Hezbollah.

“We are fighting a war for the entire universe, for the free world,” he said during a speech in Davos.

Herzog was sitting next to a photograph of baby Kfir Bibas, a hostage kidnapped by Hamas, who turned one on Thursday. “Here, on this incredible world stage, I call on the entire universe to free Kfir Bibas and all the hostages that are there,” Herzog said.

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian speaks during a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart in Tehran on September 3, 2023.

Atta Kenare | AFP | Getty Images

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said his country wants to “stop the war in Gaza.”

He said that U.S. support of Israel was the “root of insecurity in the region.”

“The U.S. should not, Mr. [Joe] Biden should not tie their destiny to the fate of Netanyahu,” Amir-Abdollahian told CNBC Tuesday.

Sergio Ermotti

UBS Chief Executive Sergio Ermotti.


UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti said returning to head up the bank last year was “quite a surreal experience,” having been in the role for nine years between 2011 and 2020.

Discussing the bank’s acquisition of Credit Suisse in March 2023, Ermotti said that clients and employees “were quite shocked in the first round, and now they embrace the new model.”

Ermotti described the period since he took over as “pretty good.”

Marc Benioff

Marc Benioff, co-founder, chairman and CEO Salesforce, speaking with CNBC’s Sara Eisen at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 17th, 2024.

Adam Galici | CNBC

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said the tech industry is working to ensure artificial intelligence is developed safely enough to make sure that the world avoids a “Hiroshima moment.”

“This is a huge moment for AI. AI took a huge leap forward in the last year or two years,” Benioff said on a World Economic Forum panel Thursday.

“We don’t want something to go really wrong,” he said.

Ray Dalio

Ray Dalio, Founder & CIO Mentor Bridgewater Associates, speaking on CNBC’s Squawk Box at the WEF Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 16th, 2024.

Adam Galici | CNBC

Investor Ray Dalio said that 2024 will be a “pivotal year” with the U.S. presidential election and geopolitical events set to have the biggest impact on markets.

“If we’re looking at the politics, the geopolitics, I don’t think that those risks are priced in, because it’s [a] difficult thing to play,” he told CNBC.

When asked whether China or U.S. politics presented a greater risk to markets, Dalio said it was important that “we work well together.”

“Our greatest risk is not China. Our greatest risk is ourselves,” he added.

Mark Carney

Mark Carney, former governor of the Bank of England, is now the UN special envoy for climate action and finance.


Mark Carney, the United Nations special envoy on climate action and finance, told CNBC that he believed sustainability “hasn’t slipped down the agenda of investors.”

The former governor of the Bank of England said that investment in clean energy grew by 50% in 2023 to $1.8 trillion, up from $1.2 trillion in 2022.

“There’s a huge surge in investment in clean energy, in EVs, [electric vehicles] in the whole supply chain,” Carney said on Thursday. 

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