The G20’s Time for Climate Leadership since Donald Trump’s America won’t


April 30, 2017

The G20’s Time for Climate Leadership since Donald Trump won’t

by Teresa Ribera*

*Teresa Ribera, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) in Paris, was Spain’s Secretary of State for Climate Change.

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/g20-climate-change-in-trump-era-by-teresa-ribera-2017-04

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At the start of 2016, the United States was well positioned to lead the global fight against climate change. As the chair of the G20 for 2017, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had been counting on the US to help drive a deep transformation in the global economy. And even after Donald Trump won the US presidential election, Merkel gave him the benefit of the doubt, hoping against hope that the US might still play a leading role in reducing global greenhouse-gas emissions.

But at Merkel and Trump’s first in-person meeting, no substantive statements were issued, and their body language made the prospect of future dialogue appear dim. Trump’s slogan “America first” seems to mean “America alone.”

By reversing his predecessor’s policies to reduce CO2 emissions, Trump is rolling back the new model of cooperative global governance embodied in the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The countries that signed on to that accord committed themselves to sharing the risks and benefits of a global economic and technological transformation.
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“Trump’s climate-change policy does not bode for US citizens”–Teresa Ribera

Trump’s climate-change policy does not bode well for US citizens – many of whom are now mobilizing resistance to his administration – or the world. But the rest of the world will still develop low-carbon, resilient systems. Private- and public-sector players across the developed and developing worlds are making the coming economic shift all but inevitable, and their agendas will not change simply because the US has a capricious new administration. China, India, the European Union, and many African and Latin American countries are still adopting clean-energy systems.

As long as this is the case, businesses, local governments, and other stakeholders will continue to pursue low-carbon strategies. To be sure, Trump’s policies might introduce new dangers and costs, domestically and worldwide; but he will not succeed in prolonging the fossil-fuel era.

Still, an effective US exit from the Paris agreement is a menacing development. The absence of such an important player from the fight against climate change could undermine new forms of multilateralism, even if it reinvigorates climate activism as global public opinion turns against the US.

More immediately, the Trump administration has introduced significant financial risks that could impede efforts to address climate change. Trump’s proposed budget would place restrictions on federal funding for clean-energy development and climate research. Likewise, his recent executive orders will minimize the financial costs of US businesses’ carbon footprint, by changing how the “social cost of carbon” is calculated. And his administration has already insisted that language about climate change be omitted from a joint statement issued by G20 finance ministers.

Image result for Sustainable Development--Jeffrey Sachs
Image result for Sustainable Development--Jeffrey Sachs

Congrats, Tan Sri  Dr. Jeffery Cheah of Malaysia and Prof. Dr Jeffery Sachs, The Earth Institute @Columbia University,  New York for this initiative. If we cannot take care of Nature, don’t expect Nature to protect us.–Din Merican

These are all unwise decisions that pose serious risks to the US economy, and to global stability, as United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres recently pointed out. The US financial system plays a leading role in the world economy, and Trump wants to take us all back to a time when investors and the general public did not account for climate-change risks when making financial decisions.

Since 2008, the regulatory approach taken by the US and the G20 has been geared toward increasing transparency and improving our understanding of possible systemic risks to the global financial system, not least those associated with climate change and fossil-fuel dependency. Developing more stringent transparency rules and better risk-assessment tools has been a top priority for the financial community itself. Implementing these new rules and tools can accelerate the overall trend in divestment from fossil fuels, ensure a smooth transition to a more resilient, clean-energy economy, and provide confidence and clarity for long-term investors.

Given the heightened financial risks associated with climate change, resisting Trump’s executive order to roll back Wall Street transparency regulations should be a top priority. The fact that Warren Buffet and the asset-management firm Black Rock have warned about the investment risks of climate change suggests that the battle is not yet lost.

Creating the G20 was a good idea. Now, it must confront its biggest challenge. It is up to Merkel and other G20 leaders to overcome US (and Saudi) resistance and stay the course on climate action. They can count as allies some of the world’s large institutional investors, who seem to agree on the need for a transitional framework of self-regulation. It is incumbent upon other world leaders to devise a coherent response to Trump, and to continue establishing a new development paradigm that is compatible across different financial systems.

At the same time, the EU – which is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome this year – now has a chance to think about the future that it wants to build. These are difficult times, to be sure; but we can still decide what kind of world we want to live in.

100 Days of Trump Gubberish


April 29, 2017

NY Times Editorial: 100 Days of Trump Gubberish

It was fitting that President Trump closed out his first 100 days in another bumbling attack on Obamacare, trying and failing to jam a bill through the House this week that had no chance of passing the Senate, just to create the illusion of action.

The sorry saga of health care under this president bears all the Trumpian hallmarks that Americans are learning to expect: the dishonest campaign promise (“health care for everyone”); the clownish attempts to write a bill; the miniaturization of Paul Ryan (remember that guy?); the rivalrous White House confederation of Bannonite anarchists and glittering cosmopolites; the dearth of nonwhites and nonmales at the table; the absence of any strategy and of any vision beyond “winning.”

All that’s needed to complete the Trump pattern is the insultingly obvious effort by the president’s kin to cash in. A health care summit meeting at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, maybe…

READ ON:

One Hundred Days of Trumpitude


April 28, 2017

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

—“One Hundred Years of Solitude,” Gabriel García Márque

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The arguably the most conceited and insecure POTUS since 1776–He think the world is his toy. He must learn to act responsibly since the United States is not an island onto itself. Military power should never be its first option and any President worth his paycheck cannot ignore Geo-economic imperatives of a globalised world. –Din Merican

One Hundred Days of Trumpitude

I

Many months later, as he faced the impeachment committee, President Donald Trump was to remember that distant afternoon when Jeff Sessions took him to discover ICE. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and, in order to indicate them, it was necessary to point. President Trump pointed at the customs agents.

“Yes,” Senator Sessions said. “These are the representatives of ICE.”

“Wow. Such great Americans. Terrific,” Trump said, grabbing an agent’s hand and yanking it toward him in a manner so powerful that anyone watching should sincerely doubt that he had ever taken Viagra. “Keeping bad hombres out. Mexico will pay for it. Believe me!” he continued, casually removing and tossing aside the mittens he had worn because of a misunderstanding of what ICE was. The Secret Service agent tailing him picked up the gloves and put them back on the hands of the American Girl doll from which they came.

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Senator Jeff Sessions and The President–Two Peas in the American Pod

II.

President Donald Trump—then just Donald Trump, a man whose foolishness surpassed the limits of exaggeration—thought it would be possible to use his deepest insecurities to make America great again. Senator Sanders, who was an honest man, warned him: “It won’t work for that.” But Trump did not believe in the honesty of anyone whom he had not strong-armed into signing a non-disclosure agreement, so he traded his hair hat for a red hat and proceeded to defend his penis during a national televised debate.

III.

When this world was long gone, much—or little, depending—would be found from the men and women who served former President Donald Trump. Among other things, they found a calcified skeleton with a copper locket containing a woman’s fingernail around its neck. It also wore a name tag that read “Steve.” A historian may wonder which Steve, for two Steves darkened Trump’s quarters in those days. But, of course, the answer is both, for this tale is full of same-named evil men. You have not heard of them, for they did nothing of significance, and died alone, covered in cobwebs, somehow.

IV.

It was evening and Trump sat alone in the West Wing, watching basic cable. He was lonely. He missed his maid, Melania, and her butler, Barron. He missed his eldest sons, Lumberjack Vampire and Albino Patrick Bateman. He missed Tiffany’s wedding. Most of all he missed his wife, Ivanka.

He was watching a rerun of “Fox & Friends.” “And friends!” Trump thought, as he always did, and smiled. He leaned closer to the TV so that he could take a selfie with the faces onscreen, but stopped himself when he heard one of the hosts say something upsetting. He began to type.

“Just found out Obama hypnotized frogs to cast votes illegally!! Very bad move. Without frogs, I would have won popular vote easily!” he tweeted. The next morning, Kellyanne Conway awoke in her isolation chamber, and called all the morning shows, as she always did, disguising her voice. “O.K., yes, President Trump did say that Obama is hypnotizing frogs, but I think the real issue here, O.K., is why no one is talking about whether Hillary Clinton colluded with the frogs, and which frogs, and, frankly, how many frogs.”

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The White House Spokesperson Sean Spicer, the American Chemical Ali

At the same time, Sean Spicer appeared on television, chewing gum furiously and saying, “At least Hitler didn’t have the audacity to eat flies with his tongue.”

It was evening, and Trump sat alone in the West Wing, watching Spicer on basic cable.Time was not passing. It was moving in a circle.

V.

Finally, one Tuesday in December, all at once Trump released the whole weight of his torment. The children would remember for the rest of their lives the august solemnity with which their father, devastated by the wrath of his imagination, stated, “Someone said he found proof that my wires were tapped. He said they hid the proof in the corner of the Oval Office!”

As he hunted around, unaware that his bathrobe was on backward, he came to understand that he would never leave that office, and, hundreds of miles away, it was foreseen that Mar-a-Lago would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment that President Donald Trump realized that there were no corners in an Oval Office, and that everything he had ever tweeted was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forevermore, because racists condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.

“We’re going to do so much winning,” he said at last, the bold claim of a man who never managed to win so much as his father’s love.

http://www.newyorker.com/humor/daily-shouts/one-hundred-days-of-trumpitude?intcid=mod-latest

America first, geo-economic logic last


April 27, 2017

America first, geo-economic logic last

by Gary Hawke, Victoria University of Wellington

http://www.eastasiaforum.org

Image result for tomahawk over syriaTrumponomics–Military Power over Geo-Economics

The Trump Administration has introduced a new set of challenges to the international economy. It has profoundly changed the role of the United States in international economic diplomacy, ceasing to be a champion of multilateralism.

Within the first 100 days of the Trump administration, reality has overwhelmed a good deal of campaign rhetoric, and individuals experienced and skilled in conventional public management have prevailed over some who epitomised revolt against elites. But ideas that challenge longstanding US positions on the world economy and international integration remain at the core of the Trump administration.

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Get the Message, Theresa May?

Bilateral trade balances have long been known to be an inappropriate policy objective. Yet the Trump administration is pursuing this without any sound argument. Its belief is that only bilaterally balanced trade (or an excess of US exports) is ‘fair trade’. This nonsense is reinforced by concentrating on trade in goods, ignoring surpluses on services trade. And the capital account is ignored entirely.

Trump expands the idea of bilateral balance to the trading relationship with every other country. He insists on what Gary Hufbauer has called ‘mirror-image reciprocity’. Every component of a deal, every individual tariff rate, any provision about rules of origin for specific products, and any condition for foreign investment must be no less favourable for US exporters than the corresponding rule applied to the United States. This is misplaced concreteness has gone mad.

The idea of a win-win overall deal is rejected. The very idea of complementarities between economies is ignored. That this is endorsed by the chair of the newly established National Trade Council Peter Navarro, who holds a Harvard PhD in economics, is a conclusive argument for an enquiry into Harvard standards.

Two of Trump’s executive orders on trade deficits and trade laws would both fail the most elementary of economics examinations.

Under the Trump Administration, history is no more respected than economics. It has been argued that the WTO and its predecessor GATT were intended to apply only to developed economies. Those who were at the Havana conference in the 1940s and those who negotiated with developing economies in the Uruguay Round saw no such belief among their US colleagues.

This is a thin disguise for wishing to continue using subterfuge rather than economic logic in consideration of so-called ‘countervailing duties’ and ‘anti-dumping penalties’ against China. The idea that there is an indisputable definition of a ‘market economy’ is absurd, but then so is the underlying idea of dumping. Artificial lowering of prices with the intention of raising them after forcing a competitor out of business should be countered — if it were ever properly detected.

Even more absurd is the notion that ‘over capacity’ is something that requires government intervention. Consumers gain from cheap products. When producers cannot sustain output levels at such low prices, the appropriate response is for the least efficient producers to exit. In the case of steel, ‘least efficient’ is probably not the same as ‘Chinese’.

Most concerning is an attack on the WTO dispute resolution system. US opposition to it predated the Trump administration. The Obama administration vetoed the reappointment of a judge to the Appellate Body for the little-disguised reason that his decisions were uncongenial.

US resistance to the dispute resolution system has never been far from the surface. It is often rationalised by a constitutional principle that only the US Congress can create laws which bind US citizens. Some US judges can nevertheless make positive use of international reasoning, and previous administrations have recognised that membership of international institutions could require them to persuade Congress to amend US law or to compensate a foreign party.

The language in the final statement of the WTO dispute resolution system is in no way an exemption of the United States from the dispute resolution system. The words of the dispute settlement understanding that a ruling can’t ‘add to or diminish the rights or obligations’ of a member country — relate to member countries’ commitments, not US law, and their interpretation is not a US prerogative.

Rhetoric about a ‘rules-based international order’ or the ‘modern liberal international order’ is now entirely empty when set beside the declared intentions of the Trump administration. Again, the problem is deeper than Trump. No country can be an effective advocate of the rule of law when its partisan politics dominates the choice of its most senior judges. Fundamentally, the United States has to adjust to no longer being able to dominate global affairs.

Economic integration now has to be led by countries other than the United States. But successful integration elsewhere will cause responses within the United States as businesses miss profitable opportunities and as voters see that they are missing out on consumption and employment gains.

Gary Hawke is retired Head of the School of Government and Professor of Economic History, Victoria University of Wellington.

Fareed Zakaria -GPS


April 24, 2017

Fareed Zakaria –GPS

Trump’s bluster and bravado on North Korea will only make the U.S. look weak.

Every American administration takes a while to settle into a basic approach to the world. President Trump’s team has had a rockier start than most, with many important positions in every key agency still unfilled. More worrying, the administration’s basic foreign policy is coming into view, and it is not a reassuring sight — bellicose rhetoric, hollow threats, contradictory voices and little coordination with allies. The approach is being tested on the most difficult foreign policy problem of all: North Korea.

There is a pattern to Trump’s approach so far. It begins with bravado, the repeated use of rhetoric that is not backed up by much. The president constantly insists that if China doesn’t help deal with North Korea, the United States will. Really? How? A military strike is close to impossible. South Korea would vehemently oppose any such move, as it would face the brunt of North Korea’s retaliation; Seoul is only about 35 miles from the border. Japan would also oppose a strike, and, of course, any military action would enrage China. Plus, a bombing campaign would be ineffective because North Korea’s nuclear sites are scattered, buried deep and, in some cases, underwater.

Trump has not been alone in his bravado. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that the United States’ historical policy of “strategic patience” with North Korea had ended, and that the United States has a new policy. The danger of this kind of rhetoric is that it is becoming readily apparent that Washington does not in fact have a new policy. And if it does, Washington’s key allies, especially the South Koreans, are terrified by it. With the administration’s bluster, its mistake with the USS Carl Vinson and Trump’s repetition of Beijing’s line that Korea was once a part of China, South Korea has become deeply uneasy.

Tough talk is supplemented by aggressive military reflexes. Whether that means using bigger bombs in the Middle East or sending ships — eventually — into East Asian waters, these tactics can be useful if there is a strategy behind them. So far, however, they look more like tactics in search of a strategy, the flexing of military might in the hope that this will impress the adversary. But all the shock and awe in Iraq did not help when there was a faulty plan to secure the peace. More bombs in Syria will not answer the question of how to defeat the Islamic State without abetting President Bashar al-Assad. Threatening North Korea without the ability to carry out that threat only makes Washington look weak.

The United States has had roughly the same strategy toward North Korea for decades. It is a policy of sanctions, threats, intimidation, pressure and isolation. And it has not worked. Even the brief effort at cooperation during the Clinton years was halfhearted, with Washington failing to fulfill some of its promises to North Korea. In any event, the rapprochement was quickly reversed by the George W. Bush administration. The results have been clear. North Korea has continued to build its nuclear program and engage in provocative tests. As isolation and sanctions have increased in recent years, Pyongyang has only become more confrontational.

In a recent essay in Foreign Affairs, John Delury wonders whether it is time to try another approach. “If the United States really hopes to achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula, it should stop looking for ways to stifle North Korea’s economy and undermine Kim Jong Un’s regime and start finding ways to make Pyongyang feel more secure. This might sound counterintuitive, given North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and human rights record. But consider this: North Korea will start focusing on its prosperity instead of its self-preservation only once it no longer has to worry about its own destruction. And North Korea will consider surrendering its nuclear deterrent only once it feels secure and prosperous and is economically integrated into Northeast Asia.”

We tend to view North Korea as an utterly weird country run by a loony dictator with bad hair. And there’s evidence to support this characterization. But it is also a regime that wants to survive. I recall many similar arguments made about Iran before the nuclear deal, that it was a fanatical country run by mad mullahs. We were told they could never be negotiated with, would never accept a deal, would never disconnect their centrifuges and would violate any agreement within weeks. So far, all these predictions have proved wrong. It might be worth trying a new policy with North Korea. It might not work. But the old one certainly hasn’t.

DJT’s Muddled Foreign Policy


April 23, 2017

DJT’s Muddled Foreign Policy: Holding the Free World hostage to Trump’s Oversized Ego

by Dr. Munir Majid

http://www.thestar.com.my

Image result for Trump the egoistic alpha male

DJT: Exploding from the starting blocks only to realise that as President he is in a long distance race to make America Great Again

PRESIDENT Donald J. Trump exploded from the blocks after his inauguration on January 20, but soon found out he was not in a sprint but in a long-distance race.

 

His rapid fire of orders to fulfill promises he made for his first 100 days were not as easy to shoot as he thought. Most notable, of course, were the executive orders on entry into the United States, immigrants and refugees. The way these orders were shot down was one of the most heartening evidences that the liberal system in America was alive and well – not just the laws, but the people willing to fight for others – and that the Trump avalanche could not crush it.

Trump has promised to come roaring back, but not yet. Meanwhile he has moved to the H-1B visa, signing just this week the “Buy American, Hire American” executive order in Wisconsin (where his stunning victory was part of the Rust Belt sweep that propelled him to the White House).

This order could curb the hiring of foreign technical workers and will get government agencies to buy more domestically produced products – all part of his promise to protect American jobs and wages. So there still is this anti-foreign binge, if not quite fulfilled on the alleged security front at least on the economic front, misplaced though it may be to most rational people.

For friends and foes alike, their main concern with the Trump Presidency is his threat to attack the open global trading system, which he claims has been unfair to the United States. His performance on this within these 100 days is mixed and uncertain.

The big overhang was a possible trade war between the United States and China. Though not quite averted, it does not look as if China is going to be slapped with a tariff of 45% or declared a currency manipulator in Trump’s first 100 days, or perhaps even the next.

This was a lightning campaign promise, over which wiser counsel has prevailed. The former was hyperbole of the highest order, and the latter plainly not true. This does not mean, however, that there is no prospect of trade conflict with China or that the Trump Administration has embraced free trade. It is just that some strategy or policy is forming.

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China’s first lady Peng Liyuan with senior Trump adviser Jared Kushner at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate

Trump’s summit meeting with Xi Jinping was just a first touch. There may even be trade-offs in the offing: Trump’s much vaunted “art of the deal”, normally called linkage politics.

This mixed and uncertain future is evident in a number of instances. The US Trade Representative office, in its report to Congress in March (while still without its head confirmed), left the part on China unfilled and referred the reader to a previous report under the Obama administration in 2016 which was just a factual rendition of China’s track record that year against its World Trade Organisation (WTO) obligations.

The other parts of the March report – the first on trade policy under the Trump administration – were clear but not trenchant on “America First” and on an emphasis on bilateral rather than multilateral trade arrangements. There were ominous references, however, to the United States not being bound by WTO rulings.

At the G-20 finance ministers meeting in Hamburg, US Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin insisted there should be no reference in the joint communique to “avoid all forms of protectionism”, which had been an allusion after all G-20 meetings. It would be interesting to see what line Trump would take at the G-20 summit in July, also to be held in Hamburg.

And there is now this notorious list of 16 countries – Malaysia included – with whom the United States has a chronic trade deficit problem, as if the Sword of Damocles hangs over their heads.

Yet Vice-President Mike Spence was this week in Indonesia to reassure Asia on US commitment to its friends and allies in the region. Damage to trade-dependent economies cannot be good commitment, which even a Trump administration must realise.

Just to mix it up even more, the vice-president announced that Trump would be attending the APEC and ASEAN summits in November, something countries in the region were hopeful for but absolutely not sure about.

To boot, this message was conveyed after Mike Spence visited the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, when he further stated the Trump administration would work with Asean on security and freedom of trade in the South China Sea. While there is uncertainty, there are also surprises, not always unpleasant.

The Mike Spence Asia trip was primarily intended to reassure South Korea and Japan, and to warn North Korea which was making everyone excitable with its nuclear weapon adventurism. There is, however, a correlation between economic capacity and defence capability of its allies, which the Trump Administration perhaps is beginning to realise. Enfeebling with trade sanctions is not the best way to boost their confidence or capability in defence.

The assurance, it would seem, would come from the Trump Administration’s willingness to shoot its way out of the troubles it may face, such as those threatened by North Korea.

This is quite dubious foreign policy strategy, as there are a limited number of bush fires that can be fought, especially as some can become overwhelming conflagrations.

The language Mike Spence has been using, like his boss through Twitter rather than based on any strategic doctrine, has been: “Choice today the same as ages past. Security through strength or an uncertain future of weakness and faltering… (America) will always seek peace but under president Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready.”

No doubt the 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles that hit a Syrian airbase in response to the Assad regime’s callous chemical attack on innocents, is the pointed reference, but surely not the armada that did not appear around North Korea.

Deterrence needs to be credible, absolutely, but easier in some situations, like Syria, and complicated in North Korea where the China factor has to be weighed more carefully than the faraway Russian Syrian interest.

The point is there is a greater complexity in international relations than a one-size-fits-all approach. There is merit in the Trump argument that there has been, in US foreign policy, a perfectionist strategic paralysis. But there is also proof that threat of an all-out action is not sustainable in all situations.

What is observable in the past almost 100 days of the Trump administration is a retreat from quite a number of the US president’s outlandish assertions and policy threats – like blanking out Nato – which have come out more as movement sideways, compensated by direct action which even has some American public intellectuals cooing.

There is still uncertainty. There will be more surprises. But will the Trump new normal be more normal than new?

Tan Sri Munir Majid, chairman of Bank Muamalat and visiting senior fellow at LSE Ideas (Centre for International Affairs, Diplomacy and Strategy), is also chairman of CIMB Asean Research Institute.

Read more at http://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/comment/2017/04/22/trumps-100-days-and-still-going-wrong/#Zq3eGeO5UEqd53Bp.99