America First or America alone: Trump’s agenda of withdrawal


Thu, Dec 07, 2017 - Page 9

Since US President Donald Trump took office in January, the US has abandoned or threatened to quit several international accords under his “America First” policy. Trump’s advisers insist the slogan does not imply any new isolationist stance, but a pattern of disengagement from multilateral commitments has emerged.

On Saturday, the Trump administration announced it was withdrawing the US from a UN pact to improve the handling of migrant and refugee situations, deeming it “inconsistent” with its policies.

Richard Haass, who was the US Department of State policy planning director during former US president George W. Bush’s first term, has dubbed the Trump administration’s pattern the “withdrawal doctrine.”

Here are some of the accords that Trump has abandoned or threatened:


‧ The US Mission to the UN announced on Saturday that the US was ending its participation in the Global Compact on Migration.

In September last year, the 193 members of the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a non-binding political declaration, the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, pledging to uphold the rights of refugees, help them resettle and ensure they have access to education and jobs.

The Global Compact, based on the declaration, is due to be presented at the UN General Assembly next year.

However, the US mission said the declaration “contains numerous provisions that are inconsistent with US immigration and refugee policies and the Trump administration’s immigration principles.”

‧ Washington said in October it was pulling out of the UN’s Paris-based culture and education body, UNESCO, accusing it of “anti-Israel bias.”

The withdrawal is to take effect at the end of next year, when the US will establish an “observer mission” to replace its UNESCO representation.

‧ Trump announced in June that the US will withdraw from the 196-nation Paris Agreement on climate change and seek to negotiate a new global deal.

Declaring he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump complained that the accord gives other countries an unfair advantage over US industry and destroys jobs for Americans.

The US pullout will not take effect before November 2020.

‧ Within days of taking office, Trump withdrew the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was billed as the world’s biggest trade pact when signed in February last year with 11 Asia-Pacific nations, but not China.

The US pullout killed the

deal before it could even be

implemented. Trump pledged to negotiate bilateral pacts that would be more favorable to his country.


‧ In October, Trump withdrew his support for the nuclear agreement signed in July 2015 by Iran and the permanent members of the UN Security Council: Britain, China, France, Russia and the US, plus Germany.

The pact’s fate is now in the hands of the US Congress, which might decide to break it by imposing new US sanctions on Iran, and Trump has warned that he might unilaterally quit it at any time.

‧ Trump has ordered a renegotiation of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada, which he has called the worst trade deal ever signed.

Talks began in August, but Trump has threatened to pull out of the pact and negotiate bilateral deals if his country did not get a fairer shake by the end of this year.

‧ The US president wants reform of UN “bureaucracy,” accusing the world body of bad management. Washington is the largest financial contributor to the world body.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has stressed that Washington would continue evaluating its role in UN agencies.


‧ On the campaign trail, Trump called NATO “obsolete” before qualifying his remarks and demanding that members of the alliance increase their defense budgets.

Once in office, Trump caused jitters among US partners by waiting almost six months before clearly stating his support for Article Five of the alliance’s treaty, which states that an attack on one ally is an attack on all.

‧ The US president regularly denounces “protectionist” measures by the EU and the US trade deficit with Germany.

Washington targeted Germany and six other nations in March with punitive anti-dumping duties on steel plates.

‧ Talks, begun in 2013, for the proposed US-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership have been suspended, but US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has made it clear that the US side is only interested in a deal that would reduce US trade deficits.

‧ The WTO is also in the Trump administration’s sights. At a July meeting of the G20 group of major economies, US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin did not exclude renegotiating multilateral accords.

Trump has said a border adjustment tax, which has been advanced by some Republicans to favor exports, could be a job creator. However, it could also be at odds with existing rules under the WTO.