Trump cements 'America First' doctrine with Paris withdrawal

President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord has put the world on notice that “America First” is not just a campaign slogan — it’s his administration’s guiding doctrine.

Trump on Thursday delivered on a key campaign promise by announcing he will pull the U.S. out of a 195-country agreement that former President Obama entered into less than nine months ago.

Obama had hailed the Paris agreement as a “turning point for our planet” and the culmination of “an intense diplomatic effort” that drew scores of countries, cultures and governments into a pact aimed at slowing the rise in global temperatures.

Critics of Obama, including Trump, called the agreement another example of him putting foreign interests ahead of America’s.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We don't want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore, and they won’t be,” Trump said Thursday. “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

Some Trump allies inside and outside the administration made a frenzied, last-ditch push to keep the U.S. in the Paris agreement. 

The pressure to save the deal came from tech titans, business leaders, the pope, establishment Republicans, mayors, governors, international coalitions, world leaders, family members Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, and top advisers such as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

But Trump stayed true to his campaign promise to leave the deal, delivering an emphatic Rose Garden announcement that wouldn’t be out of place at one of his rallies.

Vice President Pence opened, declaring that Trump was “choosing to put the forgotten men and women of America first.” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, a top proponent of exiting the agreement, closed out the ceremony, saying the decision to withdraw reflects Trump’s “unflinching commitment to put America first.”

Over the course of his speech, Trump name-dropped industrial cities in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania, three formerly blue Rust Belt states that he won on his way to his upset victory over Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFBI’s top lawyer believed Hillary Clinton should face charges, but was talked out of it Harris adds key Clinton aide, women of color to 2020 campaign: report Democrats more likely Trump's foil, than to foil Trump MORE last year.

Trump boasted of new coal mines that would be opening soon in West Virginia and framed the decision to exit the Paris agreement as a binary choice between putting American workers first and past policies that “transfer jobs out of America and ships them to foreign countries.” 

“As president, I can put no other consideration before the well-being of the American citizens,” Trump said. “The Paris climate accord is an example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers, who I love, and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shut factories and vastly diminished economic production.”

Trump’s commitment to an “America First” policy has colored everything from his “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan to his decision to hitch his wagon to chief strategist Stephen Bannon, a self-described “economic nationalist” who once helmed the right-wing populist website Breitbart.

During his first week in office, Trump signed an executive order pulling the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-country trade deal Obama had signed less than one year earlier.

Trump has continually talked tough toward U.S. allies in NATO, which he at one point called “obsolete.” In the White House and at meetings abroad, Trump has pressured foreign leaders to contribute more of their own money to the alliance.

Speaking to world leaders at the NATO summit in Brussels last week, Trump conspicuously declined to endorse Article 5 of the alliance, which stipulates that an attack on one is an attack on all.

Trump’s NATO speech was conducted in front of a 9/11 memorial. Critics of the speech noted that Article 5 has only been invoked once — after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. 

Even as he has angered allies in Europe, Trump has reserved his warmest diplomatic outreach for countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and China that were often at odds with the Obama administration.  

Prior to his overseas trip, Trump signed an executive order aimed at overhauling the H-1B visa program for high-skilled workers, a favorite tool of tech companies, saying he believes the system was being abused by companies looking to import cheap foreign labor.

And Trump has slapped a hefty tariff on softwood lumber coming in from Canada, essentially starting a trade war in an effort to boost domestic timber production. 


Trump has also talked of withdrawing the U.S. from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but has yet to follow through on that threat.

Top aides, including Bannon, drafted an executive order earlier this year that would pull the U.S. out of NAFTA. Trump has tabled that effort now, sending the trade deal to Congress for review.

Still, Trump’s allies have so far been thrilled by his commitment to pushing “America First” policies. It’s a message the administration is looking to pound home.

“Thanks to president Trump's leadership, American businesses are growing again, investing in America again, and they're creating jobs in this country instead of shipping jobs overseas,” Pence said. “Thanks to President Donald Trump, America is back.”

Democrats, meanwhile, are aghast.

Vermont Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersBernie Sanders to sign pledge affirming he will run as a Democrat Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Drug pricing fight centers on insulin | Florida governor working with Trump to import cheaper drugs | Dems blast proposed ObamaCare changes Hillicon Valley: Microsoft reveals new Russian hack attempts | Google failed to disclose hidden microphone | Booker makes late HQ2 bid | Conservative group targets Ocasio-Cortez over Amazon MORE (I) called pulling out of the Paris deal the “abdication of American leadership and an international disgrace.” Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenCoast Guard lieutenant arrested, accused of planning domestic terrorism Hillicon Valley: Microsoft reveals new Russian hack attempts | Google failed to disclose hidden microphone | Booker makes late HQ2 bid | Conservative group targets Ocasio-Cortez over Amazon Trump campaign fundraising on Bernie Sanders's M haul MORE (D-Mass.) called it “abdicating America’s leadership role in the world” and a “historic mistake.”

Others cast the decision as bowing to fringe elements within the administration. Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats The border deal: What made it in, what got left out Lawmakers introduce bill to fund government, prevent shutdown MORE (D-Ore.) said that withdrawal was “a win for Steve Bannon and Scott Pruitt and those who share their extremist views.” 

The decision comes on the heels of Trump’s at-times turbulent first trip abroad as president.

Trump was met with warm greetings in Israel, in Saudi Arabia and at the Vatican. But his Group of Seven and NATO meetings were frostier and exposed fissures with longtime trans-Atlantic allies, such as Germany.

The environmental group Sierra Club accused Trump of leaving America “alone and isolated,” cheekily arguing that the G7 should now be called the G6.

Ian Bremmer, the president of the Eurasia Group, went further.

“If you want a watershed moment beyond Trump's inauguration, American withdrawal from the Paris accord is it,” Bremmer said. “Pax Americana is over. Welcome to the G-zero.”