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United States

Trump says he’s open to reversing US pull out from climate change agreement

French President Macron says talks with Trump are indispensable even with ‘regrettable’ differences

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 July, 2017, 11:28pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 July, 2017, 6:30pm

US President Donald Trump hinted he was open to reverse his decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord on Thursday, but did not say what he would need in return to persuade him to do so.

Trump, who has made few friends in Europe with his rejection of the 2015 Paris agreement and his “America First” trade stance, met with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris as both leaders sought common ground to reset an awkward relationship.

“Something could happen with respect to the Paris accords, let’s see what happens,” Trump told a news conference. “If it happens, that will be wonderful, and if it doesn’t, that’ll be OK too.”

Trump has said the Paris accord is soft on leading polluters like China and India, putting US industry at risk.

“I respect the wish to preserve jobs, I think that’s compatible with the Paris accord,” Macron said at the joint conference.

“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.

Trump arrived in the French capital on Thursday after an overnight flight from Washington for a whirlwind, 36-hour visit to meet with Macron and tackle potential solutions to the crisis in Syria and discuss broader counterterrorism strategies. Macron and his wife, Brigitte, greeted Trump and first lady Melania Trump at Les Invalides, site of Napoleon’s tomb.

Trump and 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.

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.

Weeks after Macron hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Palace of Versailles, Trump will bask in the trappings of the Bastille Day military parade on Friday and commemorations of the entry 100 years ago of US troops into the first world war.

Macron welcomed Trump 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.

For the 39-year-old Macron, France’s youngest leader since Napoleon two centuries ago, the visit is a chance to use soft diplomacy to win Trump’s confidence and set about influencing US foreign policy, which European leaders say lacks direction.

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Macron views it as counterproductive to isolate the United States on the world stage, and said he and Trump had asked diplomats to draw up in the coming weeks a concrete initiative aimed at preparing the future of Syria.

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

Trump said work was underway to negotiate a ceasefire in a second region of Syria.

Trump planned on Friday to participate in Bastille Day celebrations.

The president’s decision last month to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord sparked outrage across Europe, and anti-Trump protests are planned while he is in Paris.

Macron, a staunch advocate of research to combat global warming, has beckoned “all responsible citizens”, including American scientists and researchers, to bring their fight against climate change to France. Trump said the climate deal was unfair to the US.

Trump, Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders huddled last week in Hamburg, Germany, during a summit of the world’s leading rich and developing nations.

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Merkel and Macron met again on Thursday in Paris, before Macron’s meeting with Trump. Trump and Merkel were not expected to meet.

Merkel said during a joint appearance with Macron that it’s important to keep talking with Trump even where the differences are clear. She said last week’s summit showed that common ground exists, for example, on fighting terrorism, but that “we also had to name clear differences, for instance regrettably the difference on whether we need the Paris climate accord or not”.

She added: “We did not paper over these differences, but nevertheless contact, the ability to speak, is of course important.”

Macron said Germany and France agree on the importance of close ties with the United States, despite the differences.

The leaders and their wives will cap off Thursday with a lavish dinner at the Jules Verne restaurant in the Eiffel Tower.

Trump is visiting a city he has repeatedly disparaged. When he announced his decision on the climate agreement, Trump said he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” And he’s repeatedly said the city has been ruined by the threat of terrorism, which he ties to immigrants.

“Paris isn’t Paris any longer,” he said in February.

But counterterrorism issues give Macron and Trump the potential for a strong working relationship.

Macron’s national security pitch hasn’t differed drastically from Trump’s. On Syria, he argues for intervention, saying that President Bashar al-Assad is a threat to Syria and Islamic State is a threat to France. France has been plagued in recent years by extremist attacks. During last year’s Bastille Day celebrations, a 19 tonne cargo truck deliberately ploughed into crowds in Nice, killing more than 80 people.

Macron supports intervention against Syria’s government in response to its use of chemical weapons and could prove an important ally as the Trump administration seeks to increase pressure against Assad. But in doing so, they’ll need to tackle the issue of Russia’s support for Assad, something Trump has only passively acknowledged.