US President Donald Trump appeared to hold the door open to a change of position on the 2015 Paris Agreement which he pulled the United States out of earlier this year.
“Something could happen with respect to the Paris accords, let’s see what happens, but we will talk about that over the coming period of time and if it happens that will be wonderful and if it doesn’t that’ll be OK too,” he told reporters in Paris yesterday (13 July).
— CNN (@CNN) July 13, 2017
Trump was on a visit to France for Bastille Day celebrations and made the statement in answer to a question at a joint news conference alongside his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.
US journalists were grateful to the French for the presser, as he avoids speaking to the press, especially since he is facing accusations of ties between his election campaign and Moscow.
Washington this week has been fixated on emails disclosed by Donald Trump Jr., showing him eagerly meeting with lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June last year – the most tangible evidence of a connection between Trump’s campaign and Russia, a subject that has also prompted an investigation by a federal special counsel.
Trump Jr. was told by an intermediary that the lawyer had information that was part of Moscow’s official support for his father’s campaign.
Trump said in Paris on Thursday that nothing of substance came of the meeting.
“My son is a wonderful young man. He took a meeting with a Russian lawyer, not a government lawyer but a Russian lawyer. It was a short meeting. It was a meeting that went very, very quickly, very fast,” he said at a news conference with Macron.
Trump said it was normal in US politics for campaign teams to look into allegations about their opponents, as his son agreed to do before the meeting in June 2016.
— CNN International (@cnni) July 13, 2017
Trump also said he Macron discussed strengthening security cooperation, and urged allied forces fighting Islamic State to ensure Mosul remained a liberated city.
“Today we face new threats from rogue regimes like North Korea, Iran and Syria and the governments that finance and support them. We also face grave threats from terrorist organisations,” Trump told the press.
“We renew our resolve to stand united against these enemies of humanity and to strip them of their territory, their funding, their networks and ideological support.”
Trump reiterated that his administration would pursue trade deals that were “reciprocal and fair”, adding that discussions on accords with China were underway.
Keeping Trump ‘in the circle’
Macron’s decision to invite Trump to the annual Bastille Day celebrations in France on July 14th has been criticized at home but the French president appears determined to prevent his US counterpart from isolating himself.
The new French president is trying to serve as a bridge between Europe and Trump, seeking to influence and understand the US president amid widespread confusion in Paris about his intentions.
The two men have sharply different backgrounds, ages and views and have already tussled over Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the global Paris Agreement on combatting climate change.
French government spokesman Christophe Castaner told the LCI channel on Thursday that the invitation to Trump was in honour of the United States, France’s ally and liberator in the two world wars of the last century.
“There’s also a strong political dimension. Emmanuel Macron wants to try to prevent the president of the United States being isolated. He (Trump) sometimes takes decisions that we disagree with, on climate change for example,” Castaner added.
“But we can do things: either you say ‘we’re not speaking because you haven’t been nice’ or we can reach out to him to keep him in the circle,” he explained.
Trump has poor relations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and will be the centre of attention in what is expected to be a stormy G20 meeting between leading nations in Hamburg, Germany, on Friday and Saturday.
Trump and Macron first met at NATO in Brussels in May where they exchanged a muscular handshake which Macron later described as “a moment of truth.”
Trump's revenge for the Macron handshake humiliation is to try to rip off the arm of the French first lady pic.twitter.com/HoaFRwD2WM
— Don Moynihan (@donmoyn) July 13, 2017
French Green MP Yannick Jadot has called Macron’s decision to invite Trump “a symbolic reward unworthy of the US president who has stuck his fingers up at humanity by withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement.”
In the French foreign ministry, diplomats complain that they frequently struggle to understand US policy on important issues such as the stand-off between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, NATO or North Korea.
As well as conflicting signals sent by Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis, reaching American diplomats by telephone is difficult.
“We’re still waiting for our counterparts to be named,” one senior diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity, referring to more than 100 vacancies which still haven’t been filled at the State Department.
And while Tillerson’s predecessor John Kerry stopped off in Paris regularly during his travel, officials in the French capital are finding it difficult to set up meetings with the new secretary of state in the Trump administration.
One area which has been working normally is the fight against jihadists where France is a partner in the US-led international force operating in Syria and Iraq. But some French diplomats worry about an absence of vision.
“It’s a bit: let’s fight the war for the moment and then we’ll see,” said another diplomat on condition of anonymity.
And the withdrawal of the US from international diplomacy under Trump could also present France with opportunities on the world stage, which Macron has made it clear he intends to seize.
“There needs to be cooperation (with the US) in a pragmatic and opportunistic way,” said Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer, a specialist at the German Marshall Fund think-tank in Paris. “In this sense, the invitation by Macron to Trump for July 14 is an excellent idea.”