Trump takes nation down isolationist path

With his announcement that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, President Donald Trump has taken another step toward fulfilling the isolationist vision he outlined in his campaign and solidified in his Inaugural Address.

The result is diminished global standing for the United States morally, economically and strategically.

“From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be America First. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families,” said Trump at his inauguration.

Such sentiments ignore the lessons of history and the reality of modern international markets.

Failing to take a clear stand aside the nation’s friends invites venturous behavior by our adversaries and the resulting miscalculations that can lead to war.

Picking needless fights with trading partners pushes them to other markets.

And abandoning our obligation — as the second largest contributor to plant-warming greenhouse gas emissions — to lead the transformation to cleaner forms of energy production risks setting the world on a course where the climatic damage becomes irreversible. It is also bad economic policy.

Yet Trump is taking the country in these directions with his misguided nationalistic agenda.

In his recent meetings with North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies, Trump passed on the opportunity to make it clear that his administration will continue to honor its commitment under Article 5 to come to the defense of NATO members. Apparently an “America First” agenda has no place for such assurances.

Instead, Trump openly berated NATO members for not spending enough on defense. It is a fair complaint, but the president should have handled it diplomatically. Combined with his lack of enthusiasm for the alliance, Trump’s approach will embolden Vladimir Putin and invite Russian aggression.

Among the president’s first acts was to kill U.S. participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. During the campaign Trump had stoked fears that the deal would have meant the loss of U.S. jobs, displaced by cheap Asian labor.

Though job displacement would occur, objective analysts concluded that on balance TPP would have been good for the nation. TPP had the support of both the right-wing CATO Institute and the left-leaning Brookings Institution. The Peterson Institute for International Economics concluded TPP would have “result(ed) in additional U.S. real national income of $131 billion annually by 2030 and … grow(n) U.S. exports each year by $357 billion by 2030.” Its projections showed the deal would have meant income growth and higher wages for U.S. workers.

For fear of global competition, Trump has provided China the opportunity to dominate a region that has the world’s fastest growing economies.

Now comes the abandonment of the climate accord. The nonsense that the agreement undermined U.S. sovereignty was straight from the conspiratorial mind of alt-right leader Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist. The reality is that the pledged goals of reducing global emissions are voluntary.

More disheartening, but unfortunately not surprising, is that Scott Pruitt, the director of the Environmental Protection Agency, was among the chief advocates arguing that Trump abandon the climate pact. Only in Trump’s world and that of the Republican-controlled Senate that confirmed him, does it make sense to have such a man in charge of the EPA.

In expressing fears of job losses due to the accord, Trump undersells the ability of U.S. markets to provide innovative solutions for producing energy more cleanly.

Reassuringly, and despite Trump’s stance, a coalition of cities, states and businesses — 30 mayors, the governors of New York, Washington and California and more than 100 companies — has pledged to work toward meeting the U.S. goal under the accord of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent by 2025, from 2005 levels. Gov. Malloy said Friday Connecticut will join, as will several other states. The coalition is sure to grow.

Faith in America to be a strong ally, to not shrink from global competition in an increasingly integrated world, and to re-establish its place as an environmental leader will survive the Trump administration. The question is how severe will be the damage in the meantime.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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