NHK Reports on Trump’s Quitting the Paris Agreement

#TrumpsJapan

Before the horrible terrorist attacks in London, President Trump pulling the United States out of the Paris Agreement was the big US news in Japan.

…an image from CNN

Just as with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the US leaving the Paris Agreement does not mean that the initiative is doomed, but the conspicuous absence of a major player such as the US will surely be felt.

Before I  continue to summarize a little bit about NHK’s report (トランプ大統領 パリ協定脱退の方針を発表, 2 June 2017), I want to make two points clear:

One is that the US emits the 2nd highest amount of COemissions in the world (15% of the global total), behind… drum roll… China! (at 30% of the global total). India is at 3rd place with approximately 7%. Since the US is the 2nd highest contributor of COemissions in the world, you would think that its leader would step up and take some responsibility.

If a country emitting 15% of CO2 emissions drops out of the agreement, then what is to keep countries that emit less (like Japan at 4%) from wanting to participate? Those smaller countries add up quickly.

Second, not only did the participating countries rely on the US to reduce it’s CO2 gas emission, but they also relied on the US’s financial support. Participating in the Paris Agreement costs money–infrastructure needs to change, especially in areas like manufacturing and agriculture. Poorer countries participating in the agreement entered into the pact with the hopes of getting financial support from the US and other wealthy nations. The US is leaving the table and taking its wallet with it.

NHK Reports

The title of the report from 2 June 2017 translates as “President Trump announces his plan to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.”

  • The article drives home the fact that the US is the 2nd highest emitter of green house gasses behind China
  • The article says that the US’s withdrawal will have a huge effect on the agreement
  • Trump’s rational is that the agreement is unfair to American workers and manufacturers
  • The article mentions that during his campaign, Trump was a Global Warming denier–so this is a reflection of his campaign promises
  • Trump’s stance on the Paris Agreement is OPPOSITE of President Obama’s 
  • Trump is revisiting all environmental reforms that the Obama administration passed and will most likely repeal them
  • Pulling out of the Paris Agreement fulfills the promise Trump made during an April 2017 speech in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (an old coal & steel city)
  • Finally it shows the contradictory nature of the Trump-beast: at the last G7 summit in Italy Trump said that the environment was a very important thing and something that he is concerned a lot aboutWhich begs the question why pull out of the Paris Agreement?

Since the Tohoku Disaster, energy has been a key issue in Japan. Fukushima’s TEPCO nuclear reactor is still in a critical stage. Ten’s of thousands of Japanese people all over the country have been protesting against the further use of nuclear energy.

Cleaner energy, and hence cutting back on fossil fuel emissions, has been a hot topic in Japan. Seeing the US take a leadership role in the Paris Agreement would have encouraged Japanese people looking for greener energy sources in the future. The US leaving the Paris Agreement could lead to Abe LDP to re-consider its internal energy policies.

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Surviving the Trump Presidency

After Donald Trump’s November 2016 election, the future looked bright for the US’s alliance with the Land of the Rising Sun. The first foreign leader to visit the US and meet personally with then President-elect Trump was Japan’s Prime Minister Abe Shinzō, who flew to New York to congratulate The Donald in person. Shortly after that in December, Trump met with Japanese telecom mogul Masayoshi Son, founder and CEO of Softbank, and discussed major investment opportunities for Softbank in America–music to Trump’s ears. The two billionaires were quite comfortable in each other’s company, showing a degree of informal-ness that took the Japanese public off guard (Trump referred to Son time and time again in interviews by his nickname “Masa,” which is contrary to Japan’s strict etiquette). Abe visited Trump a second time shortly after his inauguration, when the two put business aside and hit the links in Florida, just like old buddies. Despite these promising encounters during Trump’s first months as President-elect and later as President, a recent article appearing on Nippon.com seems to hint that the 65 year Japan-US alliance is doomed to set.

The article, Can the Japan-US Alliance Survive the Trump Presidency? by Nakayama Toshihiro (Professor of American politics and foreign policy, Keiō University), highlights concerns over Trump’s erratic foreign policy–surely Japan is not alone in their uneasiness. Japan had been enjoying eight years of an Obama presidency and his policy of “rebalancing toward Asia.” This rebalancing came at a time when Japan, too, was making moves to improve ties with its Asian neighbors–not only with South Korea and China, but also with smaller countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. This renewed confidence in Asia may have been what spurred the creation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a multilateral, multi-continental trade agreement among twelve nations bordering the Pacific Ocean.

Under Trump’s policy of America-first, the US’s pivot to Asia seems to have come to an end. The fact that on his first day in office Trump kicked the legs out of any possibility of the US’s participation in TPP drove home the America-first message. Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was banking on the success of TPP to both strengthen Japan’s manufacturing exports to places like Central and South America, while at the same time boosting its agricultural imports from southeast Asia. Now that the US has pulled out of the deal, a few of the remaining  nations, whom Japan depends on, may also follow suit.

Trump took his first overseas diplomatic trip this past week, choosing to go to Saudi Arabia of all places. Although this may appear to be yet another example of his pivoting away from Asia and thus a deescalation of the Japan-US alliance, it is the opinion of this blogger that Prime Minister Abe and Japan have nothing to fear in terms of garnering future favor from the US. New construction of US military installations in Okinawa is continuing according to schedule, and as long as North Korea’s boy-leader Kim Jong-un keeps playing with fire, Japan will remain the US’s strongest and most important ally in Asia and the greater Pacific region.