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Trump hangs tough on ‘America First’ while critics rage

MR josseGAITHERSBURG, MD: Even in a week characterized by a veritable deluge of jaw-dropping politico-diplomatic developments, American President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement – focused on the internationally agreed-upon goal of reducing global warming – stands out as particularly attention-grabbing.
Indeed, although he resisted tremendous pressure to not turn America’s back on the landmark climate deal, he decided to stay where he’s always been: maintaining his stance that the deal was unfair to US workers.
The Washington Post pronounced editorially that, in doing so, Trump had betrayed the planet while others were quick to rubbish Trump’s claims asserting that they were spurious. On the other side of the aisle, it was lustily cheered by his core political base that helped make him president. He himself was quick to proclaim that he was elected by the ‘citizens of Pittsburg, not Paris’. Trump made it plain, in other words, that he will always put “America First” while formulating policy.
His central argument is that the goal of reducing carbon emission would cost the economy too much. It is important to note, however, that withdrawing from the accord would take up to four years, meaning a final decision would be left to voters in the next presidential election!  Equally noteworthy is that in the interregnum, Trump would have the US adhere to the process laid out in the Paris agreement that former president Obama joined and most of the world has already ratified.
[Before resuming the mainstream of discussion on the impact of the Trump decision on the 2015 Paris pact, it may be germane to remind oneself that the latest terrorist carnage in London – the third of its kind in the UK by Islamic extremists in nine weeks – has reminded us that although the American president has, once again, been clumsy or gauche in the phraseology of his comments, he has however been right on the ball on the crucial issue of the urgency of excising that terrorist cancer through all appropriate means, including drastic ones.] While there is little doubt that the multi-faceted ramifications of Trump’s decision on the Paris climate accord will continue to reverberate around the Washington DC beltway and even roil the political waters all the way to the next presidential elections in 2020, in the meantime it is most edifying for this columnist that, among other things, it has fuelled speculation of who would be the main beneficiaries of US exiting from the Paris accord.
Bloomberg Businessweek, for instance, has an opinion piece that makes the case that apart from grave consequences for the United States, it would benefit other countries, including China, India, France, Germany and Russia. Revealing in quite another way was a report in the Washington Post, datelined New Delhi but with additional inputs from Beijing and Tokyo, making the case that while China and India have the will but not the resources “to lead on climate.”
I found comments by Indian and Chinese leaders, quoted therein, even more gripping. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, standing alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, proclaimed that failing to act on climate change – a jibe at Trump – was a “morally criminal act”; earlier in the year Chinese President Xi Jinpin called the Paris accord “a hard-won achievement” and urged other signers to stick to their pledges instead of walking away – “as this is a responsibility we must assume for future generations.” I now leave it to the reader to compare and contrast the observations by Modi and Xi and decide for themselves whether the stark difference in tone is not a reflection of the state of play of Indo-American and Sino-American relations today, in the age of Trump.
Perhaps this is an appropriate time to bring to notice an item in the Bloomberg Businessweek headlined: “Laid-off Indian IT Workers Blame Trump” – a news story that “lays the blame for a rising tide of layoffs in the country’s $ 110 billion outsourcing industry on US President Donald Trump.”
Before leaving the ever-absorbing theme of the Sino-Indian tug-of-war, I would like to draw readers’ attention to a news report by Indrani Bagchi in the Times of India which had this to say: “India is not yet on the German radar” – an official observing that media coverage of Modi’s visit was not even close to the coverage the Chinese are getting.” A day after Modi took off for Spain, China has occupied eyeballs in Berlin, with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visiting to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel. “China is important for us for economic trade reasons”, a German official said – according to Bagchi.
Much food for thought, I think, particularly for those who strut on Kathmandu’s seminar/media catwalk under the dangerously misleading hallucination that India and China have equal weight on the world arena!
Readers of this column no doubt have learnt of the recent passing, at the age of 89, of ‘Cold Warrior’ and national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski. He was not only one of America’s pre-eminent scholars on Russia but who was among the most prescient in predicting the collapse of the erstwhile Soviet Union – and contributed to bringing it about.
Would like now to quote this excerpt on Brzezinski from a piece written by Joe Scarborough in the Washington Post: “History will record that on the greatest foreign policy challenge of his time, Brzeninski got it right. Just as LBJ will be remembered for Vietnam, Kissinger for China, Carter for Camp David and Bush 43 for Iraq, Brzezinski will be remembered for his visionary responses to the Cold War and America’s disastrous lurch into Iraq.”
Not all readers may recall Brzezinski’s visit to Nepal long ago – and his lecture to a gathering assembled at Hotel Shaker by the Nepal Council of World Affairs, where yours faithfully was also present.

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