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Trump Delays Decision on Paris Climate Accords

In a Twitter message posted before the joint statement was officially released, Mr. Trump said: “I will make my final decision on the Paris Accord next week!”

The reaction was swift and critical. Alden Meyer, the director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said: “President Trump’s continued waffling on whether to stay in or withdraw from the Paris Agreement made it impossible to reach consensus at the Taormina summit on the need for ambitious climate action. But he stands in stark isolation.”

Jennifer Morgan, the executive director of Greenpeace International, said, “President Trump should now return to Washington and make the right decision, take climate change seriously and take action with the rest of the world.”

The G-7 statement provides the United States more time to resolve internal White House debates about whether to pull out of the pact. It says the United States is “in the process of reviewing its policies on climate change and on the Paris Agreement and thus is not in a position to join the consensus on these topics.”

Gary D. Cohn, the director of the national economic council, said, “There was a lot of give-and-take between the different countries in the room.” But he insisted that the other countries understood Mr. Trump’s refusal to make a decision on the Paris accord, even if they did not support it.

“They understand the president’s only been in office for a certain period of time, and they respect that,” Mr. Cohn said. “They understand where we are; we understand where they are.”

“We’re all allies,” he added, “we’re all trying to get to the right place and be respectful of each other.”

For Mr. Trump, the lack of a decision on the climate accord was an uncertain ending to an ambitious first trip as president that began as a respite from a barrage of scandal at home.

Beleaguered White House aides — who were aboard Air Force One flying to Riyad when they watched the allegations that Mr. Trump had called his F.B.I. director a “nut job” — hoped the trip would provide a much-needed change of subject.

In some ways it did — if only because the White House engineered the trip to keep Mr. Trump far away from reporters who could ask him questions. They scheduled no news conferences and put the president only in highly controlled situations: a brief photo session with a foreign leader, a teleprompter speech, a ceremonial gathering with other leaders.

In Saudi Arabia and Israel, Mr. Trump was surprisingly disciplined, sticking to his script and delivering two speeches that set a clear course for his approach to the Middle East. His rapturous welcome in both countries suggested the United States could make a new start with allies who had grown restive during the Obama administration.

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In Europe, however, the pugnacious side of Mr. Trump reasserted itself. He harangued NATO members on their contributions to the alliance, demanding more from other countries. He declined to reaffirm explicitly commit the United States to defend its allies in the case of an attack. He picked a fight with Germany on trade and won derisive headlines after muscling the prime minister of Montenegro aside during a photo shoot.

“His advisers tried to make him understand that there are some allies that are really nervous and needed reassurance,” said Volker Perthes, the director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “He managed to do it with the Saudis and the Israelis.”

But Mr. Perthes said the president’s harsh attacks on Iran, even if they were applauded in Saudi Arabia and Israel, carried the seeds of future tensions in the region.

“Do we get closer to stability in the Middle East if we continue to polarize, if we continue to divide?” he asked.

On climate, Mr. Trump had long railed against what he said were the economic dangers of the global climate agreement. A desire for flexibility had been a key demand by the president, who has said the accords could be costly for American businesses and drain jobs in the United States.

Neither Mr. Trump nor senior White House officials traveling with him made an immediate announcement about whether the United States would stay in the climate agreement, which was signed by former President Barack Obama. White House officials had said before Mr. Trump’s inaugural overseas trip as president that he intended to wait until he returned to Washington to make a final decision.

But advocates for stronger action to confront climate change said the message from the joint statement was that Mr. Trump remained unconvinced of the accords’ value.

The exit of the United States, the world’s largest economy and second-largest greenhouse gas polluter after China, would not immediately dissolve the climate pact, which was legally ratified last year. But it would profoundly weaken the strength of the deal and pave the way for other countries to withdraw from it.

Some climate diplomats noted that the rest of the world may be growing weary of America’s back-and-forth on climate change policy. In 1997, the United States joined the world’s first climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, under the leadership of Vice President Al Gore, but later withdrew during the Bush administration.

Then Mr. Obama led the way in forging and signing on to the Paris accords, but the latest move by Mr. Trump nearly, albeit not entirely, negates that move.

“At some juncture other countries are going to get sick of us joining in, pulling out, joining in and pulling out and say, ‘Are we really going to work with the U.S. on this anymore?’” said Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that produces scientific reports designed to inform global policy makers.

Mr. Trump’s supporters, particularly coal state Republicans, are eager for him to withdraw from the Paris accords, seeing such a move as a fulfillment of a signature campaign promise. Speaking to a crowd of oil rig workers last May, Mr. Trump vowed to “cancel” the agreement.

Coal miners and coal chief executives in states like Kentucky and West Virginia have pushed hard for Mr. Trump to reverse any and all of President Barack Obama’s climate change policies, which are ultimately aimed at reducing the widespread use of burning coal, the largest contributor to global warming.

In a May 23 letter to Mr. Trump 10 state attorneys general, West Virginia’s attorney general, Patrick Morrissey, wrote, “Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement is an important and necessary step toward reversing the harmful energy policies and unlawful overreach of the Obama era.”

On trade, Mr. Trump pushed his demand that trade agreements the United States negotiates with other countries must be fair, as well as free, with reciprocity on tariffs and other barriers. The Trump administration has taken particular aim at Germany, accusing it of depressing the value of the euro to make its exports more competitive and to undercut American goods.

In a meeting with leaders of the European Union in Brussels on Thursday, Mr. Trump complained about imports of German cars, threatening to stop them and calling Germany “very bad” on trade.

German officials pointed out that its two leading luxury automakers, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, have sprawling assembly plants in the United States. They are also frustrated that Trump officials repeatedly raise the prospect of negotiating a bilateral trade agreement with Germany, something that the nation, as a member of the European Union, cannot do.

Source: NYT > World

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