Donald Trump says 'something could happen with the Paris Agreement'

The US President and France’s Emmanuel Macron met in Paris on Bastille Day

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Thursday 13 July 2017 19:16 BST
Donald Trump says something could happen on the Paris Climate Agreement

Donald Trump has opened the door to a reversal of his decision on the Paris Agreement on climate change saying that “something” could happen regarding the deal during his trip to France for Bastille Day.

Mr Trump withdrew the US from the global climate agreement which nearly 200 countries signed in December 2015 in an effort to combat global warming and help poorer countries adapt to an already-changed planet. He said it puts American workers, particularly in the coal industry, at an “economic disadvantage”.

“If it happens that will be wonderful and if it doesn't that will be ok too,” Mr Trump said at a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, appearing to leave the matter open-ended. “We’ll see what happens,” he added.

How much the answers were part of Mr Trump seeking to ensure the nature of his various meetings with the French leader stayed friendly is unclear – but Mr Macron was quick to back the US President up.

“I respect the wish to preserve jobs, I think that's compatible with the Paris accord,” Mr Macron said.

“There is no sudden and unexpected change today, otherwise we would have announced it, but there is the shared intention to continue discussing these issues,” the French President added.

Mr Trump and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt have expressed a desire for the Paris accord to be re-negotiated, a notion France, Germany, and Italy immediately dismissed in a rare joint statement the same day as the US withdrawal announcement.

The US still has to follow formal withdrawal procedures within the United Nations framework and will not technically be "out" of the agreement until just before the 2020 US election, but for all intents and purposes Mr Trump has said the US would not be putting federal resources towards meeting carbon emissions targets or financing outlined in the accord.

However, nearly a thousand cities, states, and CEOs of companies have pledged to do what they can to help the US meet the targets. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was optimistic about the sub-national actors' actions.

While some may think of it is a positive turn to the “G19+1” narrative coming out of the G20 summit last week in Hamburg, Germany when the US was the sole member not to sign on to the outcome document on climate change, not all see it that way.

Richard Gowan, a UN expert with the European Council on Foreign Affairs, called it “blather”.

Beyond climate change, Mr Trump had praise for the French leader, saying that he “applaud[s] President Macron on his courageous call for that 'less bureaucracy''s a good chant.”

Mr Trump and Mr Macron’s relationship got off to a bumpy start, but both have an incentive to improve relations – Macron hopes to elevate France’s role in global affairs, and Trump, seemingly isolated among world leaders, needs a friend overseas.

Mr Macron welcomed the US President with a warm handshake and smiles, a contrast to the clenched-jaw greeting they shared at their first encounter in May.

“Emmanuel, nice to see you. This is so beautiful,” the US President told Macron as they met at the Hotel des Invalides where Napoleon Bonaparte and other French war heroes are buried.

There was a somewhat an awkward handshake with Mr Macron’s wife, Brigitte. Mr Trump commented on camera: “You’re in such great shape,” before turning to Mr Macron to repeat the compliment.

"Beautiful" he said as Ms Macron can be seen backing away a bit behind First Lady Melania Trump who had her hand on Ms Macron's shoulder.

Later, the two presidents were in a mood to talk up what they agree on. “We have disagreements; Mr Trump had election pledges that he took to his supporters and I had pledges - should this hinder progress on all issues? No,” Mr Macron said.

As for Mr Trump, he said the pair had discussed the 2016 Bastille Day attacks in Nice, France and the commitment of both countries to fight terrorism.

"Our two nations are forever joined together by the spirit of revolution and the fight for freedom," the US leader said.

"France is America's first and oldest ally - a lot of people don't know that."

Mr Trump came to France beset by allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US election, with emails released on Tuesday suggesting his eldest son welcomed an offer of Russian help against his father's Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

The two leaders took questions about Russia - the first time Mr Trump had faced public questions on Donald Trump Jr’s meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016.

The FBI, Congress, and Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller are all investigating possible ties between Mr Trump's campaign team and Russian officials to determine how a foreign government interfered with the 2016 US election, as US intelligence services say.

Mr Trump had a one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit during which differing accounts emerged about the conversation, with Mr Putin saying that Mr Trump accepted Moscow's denial of election hacking.

For several months, Trump aides have been denying collusion between the campaign team and continue to do so, despite the President's namesake son releasing emails confirming his meeting with a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya.

Mr Trump, defending his son, said “most people would have taken that meeting”.

“She was a not a government lawyer, but a Russian lawyer,” the President said, adding that “it’s called opposition research”.

He claimed he has had several people call up and say they had information about opponents in his two years in politics, “that’s very standard in politics... it’s not the nicest business in the world”.

Mr Trump then shifted focus, pointing out that Ms Veselnitskaya was roaming the halls of Congress on that same US trip, with a visa approved by President Obama’s Department of Justice.

The woman seen by some as a Moscow insider was let in to the US without a proper visa under under “extraordinary circumstances”.

Video footage from just five days after her meeting with Mr Trump Jr shows Ms Veselnitskaya in the front row of a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Russia policy. She also reportedly attended a dinner on Capitol Hill with Republican Congressman Dana Rohrbacher that same week.

“Zero happened from the meeting and honestly I think the press made a very big deal of it,” said Mr Trump after his son also said no information was gleaned from the meeting.

Mr Macron said he did not want to comment on the domestic affairs of another country but pointed out that though France and Russia have “many disagreements” it was necessary for the two countries and the US to work together, especially regarding the civil war in Syria. With its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russia has put itself on the opposite side of France and America.

“On the Iraq-Syria situation, we have agreed to continue working together, in particular on the building of a roadmap for the post-war period,” Mr Macron said.

Trump said work was underway to negotiate a ceasefire in a second region of Syria, following the start of a cessation of hostilities in an area of southwest Syria that was brokered by the US and Russia.

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