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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 January, 2004, 05:55 GMT
Dollar and trade trouble Davos
WEF sign being erected in Davos  World Economic Forum
Davos gears up for the World Economic Forum
The troubled dollar, stalled trade talks and the Iraq war are top of the agenda as world leaders arrive in Davos for the annual World Economic Forum.

More than 20 trade ministers reportedly plan to meet at the sidelines to find ways to kick-start global trade talks.

The meeting of 2,100 business people, politicians and campaigners that starts on Wednesday is an event at which to network and to discuss global issues.

But anti-globalisation protesters are expected to demonstrate on Saturday.

Talking about trouble

"Partnering for Prosperity and Security" is this year's theme for the World Economic Forum (WEF), and it is probably more an expression of hope than a description of fact.

Security staff at the World Economic Forum
Security is tight around meeting venues
The forum's five-day agenda is a reflection of all the world's troubles: the aftermath of the Iraq war; the war on terror; the shaky recovery in the global economy; transatlantic tensions over trade and security; global warming; corporate governance and many others.

Debating the issues will be company bosses like Michael Dell, Bill Gates, Cisco's John Chambers, Sony's Noguyuki Idei and Sir Martin Sorrell of advertising giant WPP.

UN secretary general Kofi Annan, US attorney general John Ashcroft, Iraq administrator Paul Bremer, presidents like Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf and Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo and former US president Bill Clinton are among the politicians coming to Davos.

Campaigners come from organisations as diverse as the World Wide Fund for Nature, poverty action group Oxfam and the African Women's Development Fund.

Dollar trouble

Despite the media glare, Davos is also an opportunity for the powerful to meet in private.

Anti-WEF demonstrations in Lugano, Switzerland
Across Switzerland, anti-WEF protesters have clashed with police
US commerce secretary Donald Evans, European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet, and Wolfgang Clement and Heizo Takenaka - the economy ministers of Germany and Japan respectively - are expected to discuss the sharp decline of the US dollar over the past year.

And one of the sessions in Davos will discuss "what if the dollar fell by an additional 20%", although none of the government officials is scheduled to speak at the event.

Trade talks

One fringe meeting that officials say is certain to happen in Davos is a get-together of more than 20 trade and economy ministers.

They want to discuss how to revive the so-called Doha negotiations on global trade.

A Swiss government spokesman told news agency Agence France Presse that ministers would "analyse the situation, why it has been gridlocked, and [debate] how the process can be moved forward in the coming months".

They hope, he said, to restart official global trade negotiations in Hong Kong later this year.

Protests in store

Critics of the WEF, however, argue that the Davos get-together cannot not provide a solution to the world's dilemmas as most of its participants are part of the problem.

More than 100,000 people have come to Bombay, attending the World Social Forum, which was set up to rival the WEF.

They have drafted resolutions against US policy in Iraq and elsewhere, and lambasted organisations like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which they describe as "an efficient tool to prevent any local social or economic development".

Christine Gent of Oxfam told delegates that "to overcome poverty we must have free international trade rules; at the moment the rules are not fair".

Back in Davos, police have imposed strict security around the conference centre.

Anti-globalisation activists have already clashed with police in several cities across Switzerland.

In Davos, protests are expected over the weekend.

The BBC's Jonathan Charles
"Hundreds of leading politicians and business executives have gathered here"

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