Trump declines to endorse Paris accord at G-7, but closes ranks on protectionism

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. President Donald Trump and European Council President Donald Tusk attend the G7 summit in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, May 26, 2017.

Alessandro Bianchi | Reuters

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. President Donald Trump and European Council President Donald Tusk attend the G7 summit in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, May 26, 2017.

Under pressure from Group of Seven allies, President Donald Trump backed a pledge to fight protectionism on Saturday, but refused to endorse a global climate change accord, saying he needed more time to decide.

The summit of G7 wealthy nations pitted Trump against the leaders of Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada and Japan on several issues, with European diplomats frustrated at having to revisit questions they had hoped were long settled.

However, diplomats stressed there was broad agreement on an array of foreign policy problems, including the renewal of a threat to slap further economic sanctions on Russia if its interference in neighboring Ukraine demanded it.

“We are satisfied by how things went,” said Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, while acknowledging splits with Washington in some areas. “We do not disguise this division. It emerged very clearly in our conversations.”

Trump himself hailed what he called “a tremendously productive meeting”, saying he had strengthened U.S. ties with longstanding partners.

The president, who has previously called global warming a hoax, came under concerted pressure from the other leaders to honor the 2015 Paris Agreement on curbing carbon emissions.

Although he tweeted that he would make a decision next week, his apparent reluctance to embrace the first-ever legally binding global climate deal that was signed by 195 countries clearly annoyed German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“The entire discussion about climate was very difficult, if not to say very dissatisfying,” she told reporters. “There are no indications whether the United States will stay in the Paris Agreement or not.”

Putting a positive spin on it, French President Emmanuel Macron said he was sure Trump, who he praised as “pragmatist”, would back the deal having listened to his G7 counterparts.

“Only a few weeks ago, people thought that the United States would pull out and that no talks would be possible,” said Macron, who, like Trump, was making his first G7 appearance.

Merkel, by contrast, was attending her 12th such gathering, and clearly believed she had overcome climate change scepticism at a 2007 summit, when she convinced the then U.S. President George W. Bush to pursue substantial cuts in greenhouse gases.

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