President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 195-country Paris climate agreement — a deal to protect the planet that was signed by virtually all countries except for Syria and Nicaragua — was an act of supreme irresponsibility that will cost the United States dearly on many fronts.
Diplomatically, it will confirm that Trump has relinquished the US role as the leader of the free world and the architect of world trade and environmental agreements. Economically, it will further convince the biggest Western democracies to expand their own trade agreements, bypassing the United States.
In addition to picking needless public fights with Mexico, Canada, Germany, NATO countries and even Australia while cozying up to the dictators of Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, Trump has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and now from the Paris agreement to reduce man-made carbon emissions that are poisoning the planet.
In essence, he’s fighting with US allies, and embracing US foes. I would not be surprised if we will soon see a German-French axis of leadership in the global defence of democracy, while China fills the US void trying to become a champion of globalization, and the environment. It’s already happening.
When I asked Mexican foreign minister Luis Videgaray in a May 30 interview whether German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s scheduled trip June 8 to Mexico will be part of a growing “anti-Trump” informal alliance of Western democracies, he gave me a long-winded answer that in effect avoided the question. But that was an answer in itself.
By neither confirming nor denying the premise of my question, Videgaray said that Germany is Mexico’s most important European trading partner, that there are more than 2,000 German companies in Mexico, and that Merkel’s trip will be for the closing ceremony of a “Mexico-German friendship year.”
But, I asked, won’t it be more than that? Hours earlier, Merkel had chastised Trump by saying that Germany can no longer “fully rely” on the United States as the leader of the free world. And on May 25, Merkel had said — in a clear reference to Trump’s proposed wall on the border with Mexico — that it’s “not isolation and the building of walls that make us successful, but open societies.”
Videgaray, who was in Miami for a Miami Herald-organized Conference of the Americas session on Mexico, told me that “Mexico is obviously making an effort to get closer and diversify its markets, and some economies are especially important, such as those of Japan, Germany, China and South Korea.”
China is already taking advantage of Trump’s fights with America’s closest allies. As I was talking with Videgaray in Miami, and shortly before Merkel’s trip to Mexico, China’s prime minister Xi Jin Ping arrived in Brussels for a meeting with European Union leaders. Xi grabbed headlines with a message in support of globalization and the fight against man-made climate change.
Trump’s propensity to pick fights with Mexico and Canada, America’s closest neighbours and biggest trading allies, could also have political consequences that could hurt US national security.
Next year, Mexico will hold presidential elections in which leftist populist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador could become the first anti-American president in decades.
Asked whether there could be a “Trump effect” in Mexico’s 2018 presidential elections, resulting in Mexicans electing a populist leftist leader, Videgaray said that “there is a risk” of that happening.
My opinion: By withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, Trump is defending a dying industry that is poisoning the earth instead of supporting clean energy industries that are at the forefront of the world’s innovation revolution and that produce many more US jobs than coal mines or oil fields.
In defending his decision, Trump said that “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”
Well, President Trump, I live in Miami, where the ocean level is rising, and it is also part of the United States. You are not only on the wrong side of history, but also on the wrong side of America’s environmental safety.
When looking for global leadership, we will have to start looking at the presidents of Germany, France, and other responsible members of the world community. You have chosen to side with Syria and Nicaragua.