The Elephant in the Room at MIPIM: Donald Trump


One individual looms particularly large over the 21,000-person MIPIM real estate confab in Cannes, France, this week: Donald Trump.

Although the former U.S. president isn’t hobnobbing in person among Europe’s real estate elite, the specter of another Trump presidency has many attendees on edge.

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“What happens in Europe, are we politically ready?” Struan Robertson, chairman of real estate, gaming and lodging for Bank of America (BAC) in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, said during the “Emerging Trends in Global Real Estate in 2024 and Beyond” panel. “Are we ready to have a sudden jump of 3 to 4 percent in military spending?”

Roberston posited that as soon as Trump gets back into the White House he’d pull U.S. support from Ukraine and bail out of NATO. And he wasn’t the only one to share those concerns.

Sanna Marin, the former prime minister of Finland, shared the same view as Roberston and said it would be a huge blow to Europe if the United States abandoned the European defense treaty.

“I don’t want to see a future when the U.S. withdraws itself from different organizations because we need a strong U.S. fighting for democracy and fighting for democratic values,” Marin said. “We cannot cope without the support and help for the U.S. … This is something we cannot afford.”

Marin — who briefly met Trump once before she was prime minister — added that while Europe needs to step up so as not to be so reliant on U.S. aid, it needs time to accomplish that. That’s something a Trump victory this year would not afford.

Robertson called Trump’s presidency the “single biggest geopolitical risk we have in Europe right now.” That could spell trouble for Europe’s real estate market. While U.S. inflation has largely been driven by housing costs and government spending, over in Europe political upheaval such as the war in Ukraine has played a bigger role. Trump 2024 could make that worse, panelists said.

Plus, there’s climate change. Some panelists said they feared a second Trump presidency would make environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) an even dirtier phrase in the U.S.

“There are some countries who chose not to overemphasize ESG, particularly if they come from areas — and I’m thinking about the U.S. rather than the Middle East — where their hydrocarbon bases or their sense of wealth from their home state come from oil,” said Megan Walters, global head of research for PIMCO Prime Real Estate, during the “Global Trends” panel.

Whatever happens with ESG in the U.S., Marin and other panelists agreed that something needs to be done about climate change, sooner rather than later (especially regarding real estate).

“We can’t negotiate with Mother Nature,” Marin said. “If we lose ecosystems, then we’ve lost them. And it will affect our ways of living in so many ways.”

Julia Simet, the co-CEO of Gensler, suggested the real estate industry move away from thinking just about money in the case of climate change and toward thinking about the greater good.

“We seem to have gotten a bit too much on the financial side of real estate,” Simet said. “I think that’s so important for the industry that we have to find the balance of doing good … where it’s pretty hard to find the benefit and quantify that.”

Nicholas Rizzi can be reached at