By Jean Chemnick, E&E News reporter
President Trump will spend much of his first foreign trip surrounded by U.S. allies who prize the Paris climate agreement and will use every opportunity to convince him to stay in it.
Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, French President Emmanuel Macron, leaders of the European Union and others have already signaled their intent to raise the accord at bilateral meetings with Trump next week. The Group of Seven’s Italian presidency is searching for a way to recognize the deal at the May 27 leader-level summit despite Trump’s lack of a position.
“In the bilateral ahead of the G-7, Gentiloni is going to tell Trump that Italy — along with the other European Union governments — strongly support the Paris Agreement regardless of what the U.S. does,” said Mauro Albrizio, European affairs director at Italy-based environmental group Legambiente.
Macron already raised the topic of Paris with Trump during a May 8 call following his election, and a French diplomatic source said he plans to do it again when the two meet for lunch in Brussels on May 25.
“They mentioned it as something important when they spoke, and Trump said he would look at it,” said the source.
Trump has shown in the past that he can be swayed by foreign leaders, like when he acknowledged that the presidents of Canada and Mexico had persuaded him not to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement. His counterparts abroad say they don’t know if they can pull off that coup with the Paris Agreement, but they are going to try.
Europeans especially view Trump’s trip as a timely opportunity to influence the American leader. Trump is seen abroad as wavering on last year’s pledge to pull out of the globally popular Paris deal, but subject to a confusing web of influence within his own administration. Some of his advisers support remaining in the deal, and some have argued against it.
The White House bowed to this internal controversy earlier this month when it postponed its decision on the agreement until after Trump returns from the nine-day voyage. The trip, which begins tomorrow, includes visits to the Middle East, the Vatican and Brussels, and meetings of NATO and the G-7 major developed countries.
E.U. capitals had spent the past weeks calling and reaching out to Trump’s advisers as a Paris decision seemed imminent. But now that it has been postponed, they hope Trump’s visit will let them circumvent his warring advisers and engage with the president directly, diplomatic sources say.
“The E.U. is communicating: ‘Don’t make the rash decision,'” said Maeve Mclynn of CANEurope. “They have the idea that maybe Trump is open to options.”
Anna-Kaisa Itkonen, European Commission spokeswoman for climate action and energy, said the message from E.U. representatives and member states alike would be that Paris is good for the U.S. economy, rather than the planet.