Trump talks trade as other leaders address climate

Source: Benjamin Hulac, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, January 30, 2018

President Trump touted the economic policies of his administration on Friday, declaring that the United States is “open for business” before an audience of business titans and heads of state, many of whom stood apart from the U.S. leader by expressing concern about climate change.

In a speech in Davos, Switzerland, before the World Economic Forum, Trump attacked free trade policies, harped on regulations and hawked the tax cuts that Republican lawmakers shepherded into law.

Not surprisingly, he did not mention that the world is heating up.

The omission of climate change, which was a central focus of the talks, drew a sharp contrast between the United States and other global powers. World leaders spoke often at the weeklong conference of the severity of climate change and the importance of international engagement.

In a 20-minute address, Trump said the United States will be on the lookout for what he called “unfair economic practices, including massive intellectual property theft, industrial subsidies and pervasive state-led economic planning.”

“These and other predatory behaviors are distorting the global markets and harming businesses and workers, not just in the U.S., but around the globe,” Trump said.

The White House last week announced tariffs on foreign solar cells and panels, an action that critics say threatens to harm U.S. solar firms (Climatewire, Jan. 23).

Trump also criticized the news media, drawing boos from the staid crowd, and defended protectionist trade policies.

“We cannot have free and open trade if some countries exploit the system at the expense of others,” said Trump, who has said he would like negotiating bilateral trade deals.

Among his peers, Trump’s comments were a lonely dissent against global communication and cooperation.

“Everyone talks about the interconnected world, but the glow of globalization is diminishing,” said Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, before calling climate change one of the most dangerous threats to the world. “Glaciers are retreating. Arctic ice is melting.”

French President Emmanuel Macron checked off the climate box, too.

His government has skewered Trump over climate, including through a website called Make Our Planet Great Again, a government project to recruit scientists. He said he wanted to “make France a model in the fight against climate change,” specifically to help its economy.

“We can create a lot of jobs with such a strategy,” Macron said.

Trump had dinner Thursday night with CEOs and chairmen of top companies, including the bosses of oil majors Total SA and Statoil ASA.

After going around the room and asking who the executives were and what firms they led, Trump landed on Patrick Pouyanné, the head of Total.

After quickly summarizing Total’s finances, Pouyanné said it also invests in renewables.

“Maybe you disagree, but in solar business … we are heavily invested,” Pouyanné said. “We’ve invested more than $2 billion in that company to develop solar in the U.S.,” he said of a Total subsidiary.

“We’ll rebuild that business,” Trump replied. “That whole thing is going to get rebuilt now, the solar panels. And you’ll see a big difference.”

Up later was Eldar Sætre, CEO of Statoil, who also said he is putting money into renewable energy.

“Primarily in solar, but offshore wind, actually,” he said. “So quite sizable business, not as big as Total yet, but we’re working on it.”