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Clinton Set To Visit Swiss Alps

February 1, 2000

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) _ The talk at the elite global gathering in the Swiss Alps that began as a European effort 30 years ago has taken on a ``Made in USA″ stamp, culminating this year with Bill Clinton’s first visit by a U.S. president.

But while there was some grumbling about the high U.S. profile, many of the delegates who attended the six-day gathering of the World Economic Forum, which ended Tuesday, conceded the ``Americanization″ was inevitable.

``America’s economy is dominant right now, and it’s hard not to have the United States deeply involved,″ said Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., a conference participant.

In interviews around the mountainside Congress Center that was the site of the main meetings, many government and business executives welcomed the growing American presence.

``We have often felt in European political circles that we have had difficulties getting senior Americans over here and engaging on European issues,″ said former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt.

This year, though, ``we got the president, we got the secretary of state, we got the secretary of the treasury, we got the secretary of commerce, we got the secretary of energy, we got senior senators, we got senior congressmen, we got the leaders of practically every important company that you’ve heard of in the U.S. coming to Europe and spending some time here,″ Bildt said.

Clinton’s whirlwind visit Saturday _ the first by a U.S. president _ was a highlight.

``It was highly appreciated that he took the time, flying back and forth across the Atlantic ... to take up these trade issues after what was a fiasco of the first order in Seattle,″ said Bildt, referring to December’s World Trade Organization meeting which was disrupted by violent demonstrations.

Both Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair laid out ideas of how to get the trade talks back on track.

``Both offered leadership here,″ Kerry said. ``They offered a clear understanding of the benefits of trade, imports as well as exports.″

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, addressing the forum Sunday, said the American presence was important to avoid a repeat of the isolationism that marked U.S. policy toward Europe between the world wars, leaving ``a huge vacuum which was filled by forces that led to even greater horrors.″

``Any global issue to be discussed requires the presence of the Americans,″ said Philippines Central Bank governor Rafael B. Buenaventura, who also cautioned U.S. representatives to strive for ``a wider focus, which included a bit more on Asia, and also on Latin America.″

Georg Flandorfer, a board member at Germany’s Audi AG carmaker, said the forum has been increasingly dominated by Americans, but ``it’s not a negative thing.″

``I do wish the Europeans would take a bit more effort to attend as the Americans do,″ Flandorfer said.

Some American business leaders questioned the high U.S. profile.

``It’s my personal observation, but I find it kind of strange that Americans come here to meet and talk deals with other Americans they could meet in New York,″ said Steven Rattner, deputy chairman of the Lazard Freres and Co. investment bank of New York.

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