China Joins EU on Climate Pact With Trump Support in Doubt

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  • Draft for EU-China summit sees clean energy as ‘main pillar’
  • Europeans shouldn’t behave like U.S. ‘vassals,’ Juncker says

Trump's Options When It Comes to the Paris Climate Accord

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the world’s No. 1 polluter will stick to its pledges to tackle global warming, underscoring the risk of U.S. isolation if President Donald Trump pulls out of the Paris climate accord.

Li made his comments during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, at which both leaders stressed the importance of promoting free trade allied to low-carbon, sustainable economic growth.

China accepts its international responsibility and is ready to steer the world toward green growth, Li said in Berlin through an interpreter. “In sum, China will honor its commitments in the framework of the Paris climate protection agreement,” he said.

Li was speaking ahead of a two-day summit that begins in Brussels later on Thursday, when China and the European Union will re-commit to free trade and the Paris Agreement in a sweeping rejection of Trump’s protectionist policies. Trump said on Twitter that he’ll make an announcement on whether to stay in the climate accord at 3 p.m. in Washington.

‘Rules-Based’ Order

Trump is said to be leaning toward pulling the U.S. out of the climate-change agreement after other Group of Seven leaders failed to win him over at a summit in Italy last week. The discord prompted Merkel to suggest the U.S. had become an unreliable partner.

The chancellor welcomed Li’s announcement that China will stand by its obligations on climate, saying that China and Germany are partners in building a “rules based international order.”

“We agreed that trading nations like Germany and China should cooperate and make clear commitments to free trade,” said Merkel, who held a private dinner with Li in the Chancellery on Wednesday evening. “We have underscored those commitments once again.”

In Brussels, EU and Chinese officials will seek to work on a stalled investment deal and China will look to make progress on being recognized as a market economy -- a status that makes it more difficult to impose anti-dumping measures to its exports. A draft statement obtained by Bloomberg says the EU and China want climate change and clean energy to “become a main pillar of their bilateral partnership, including in their economic relations.”

The two sides also “recognize the importance of developing global free trade and investment.”

‘Political Fragility’

The EU and China will call on all parties to uphold the Paris agreement because climate change is a “national security issue and multiplying factor of social and political fragility, and constitutes a root cause for instability,” according to the draft statement.

“The Americans can’t just exit this climate protection treaty,” EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who will be among the officials meeting Li, said in a speech in Berlin on Wednesday. “I’m opposed to behaving like vassals of the Americans. It’s Europe’s obligation to say: You can’t do that.”

An EU official in Brussels told reporters on Wednesday that the accord concluded in 2015 will stay in force and continue to be implemented even if the U.S. withdrew.

Drifting Apart

The summit is taking place days after Merkel gave her strongest indication that Europe and the U.S. are drifting apart. During his first foreign trip, Trump raised questions over relations with traditional U.S. allies when he hectored NATO nations for not spending enough on defense and called Germany’s trade surplus “very bad.”

The summit gives China’s leaders the chance to show that their aspirations to lead on economic globalization are sincere, said Mats Harborn, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China. He said it’s time for the two economies to back up their words by moving forward to complete the investment agreement and to offer reciprocal market access.

At the meeting, the EU and China will seek to create momentum for a bilateral investment agreement, according to a European official with knowledge of the discussions who asked not to be named because talks are ongoing. Europeans have said an investment accord is a precondition for any move toward a broader EU-China trade deal.

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