Macron loosens up trip to Nigeria with visit to legendary Lagos nightclub

 1:07
Macron visits nightclub of legendary Nigerian musician

French President Emmanuel Macron visited the New Afrika Shrine, a nightclub founded by legendary Nigerian musician and activist, Fela Kuti, on July 3. 

In 1977, Nigerian soldiers burned down the legendary concert hall where Fela Kuti performed his protest music that popularized the Afrobeat genre and earned him millions of loyal followers around the world.

Kuti was despised by Nigeria’s military rulers for his controversial songs that mocked corrupt officials, criticized colonialism and encouraged Nigerians to question their leaders’ lavish spending.

Kuti died in 1997, but on Tuesday, the New Afrika Shrine in Lagos — which replaced the original club and is now managed by two of Kuti’s sons, Femi and Seun, also both musicians — welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron. His visit to the Shrine, believed to be a first by a sitting president, stole the spotlight from Macron’s earlier extremism-related meeting with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and somewhat shifted the focus of his trip to a celebration of African youth and culture.

“It may be a surprise that a French president goes to the Shrine, but it never surprises anyone if I go to the Albert Hall or the Met,” Macron said. “We have to change that.”


French President Emmanuel Macron, right, is presented with a talking drum by artist Ara during a celebration of African culture at the New Afrika Shrine. (Sunday Alamba/AP)

At first glance, the Shrine may seem far from presidential. On an average night, hawkers linger outside and a cloud of marijuana smoke envelops guests before they even get through the front doors. Young men play pool in the corners, sharing joints next to signs that say “Drugs are not allowed in the Shrine.”

But the concert hall is also one of Lagos’s most historic landmarks, celebrating the legacy of a man who fought back against the establishment, even as he lost his own mother to the violence of Nigerian soldiers. Kuti was arrested countless times, and he spent time in prisonthe last time Buhari was in power, as a military ruler who took over in a 1983 coup. When complications from AIDS killed Kuti in 1997, at least a million people are said to have lined the streets of Lagos for his funeral.

While the club was once feared by many Nigerians, who associated it with an era of violence and crime, it now attracts a wide variety of guests, from hipsters in skinny jeans to older Nigerians dressed head to toe in traditional clothing.

Macron was already familiar with the venue: Long before he was elected president, he interned at the French Embassy in the capital of Abuja, and he claims to have visited the Shrine during the six months he spent in Nigeria. “I can’t tell you everything that happened when I used to come to the Shrine, because what happens at the Shrine stays at the Shrine,” he said this week.

At a news conference, Macron called the venue “a cultural hub and an iconic hub” and said his visit allows him “to say with a lot of humility that I recognize the importance of this culture, I recognize the place of this culture.”

Rikki Stein, the elder Kuti’s close friend and former manager, said in a phone call with The Washington Post that he was “over the moon” about Macron’s visit to the Shrine.

“France was the first country to really promote Fela,” Stein said. “He would have been happy to know that the president of France paid his respects.”

Tuesday’s special event featured a fashion show, musical performance and art display. On Twitter, Macron shared a video of himself sharing the stage with Femi Kuti (seen below in blue and red, holding the microphone).

Emmanuel Macron

@EmmanuelMacron

This is African energy. The one I discovered here in Lagos when I was 23. The one I am glad to see is still thriving several years later. The one I hope many Europeans will get to know. The one that is far from the African prejudice of misery.

Kuti wrote on Instagram that Macron “is loved, loves the New Africa Shrine. I heard him talk I believe he is concerned and wants positve change too. #onepeopleoneworld.”

Opinion: Time to scrap the G7

The messy quarrel over the G7 communique serves nobody. So why not scrap these summits altogether? After all, the four-decade-old event is an anachronistic format anyway, says Felix Steiner.

    
2018 G7 summit in Canada (Reuters/L. Millis)

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron should take matters into their own hands and scrap G7 summits. And who could object to that? These annual gatherings, bringing together leaders of the world’s biggest economies, are a Franco-German invention. Germany’s former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing established the summit in the 1970s – so why would their elected successors not be entitled to disband the club?

Posing for the press

Doing away with the huge summit would not be a great loss for humanity. After all, what was originally conceived in 1975 as a gathering for casual and confidential talks on economic matters has transformed into an annual mega event. Today, summits are held in out of the way locations for fear of protesters, while the 1,000 journalists in attendance interpret leaders’ every gesture and facial expression live on the air.

Well aware of this media coverage, leaders pose for the press, doing what they can to impress voters at home. This year’s summit made it abundantly clear just how differently national audiences view what goes on at the summit.

Vaguely worded outcomes

Then there is the tradition of protracted negations over the exact phrasing of the final communique, leading to excessively vague wording–of a document that has no relevance for world affairs, whether or not all the leaders sign it. With the little allotted time, is it even possible to meaningfully debate and agree on how to tackle plastic waste contaminating the oceans, or how to promote women entrepreneurs in the developing world? Two important issues, without doubt. But is the G7 summit the right venue to address them? Maybe the United Nations would be more appropriate?

In 2007, leaders gathered at Heiligendamm to discuss climate change, even though for years the UN has held an annual climate change conference. With all the talk about the climate, everyone was taken by surprise when just eight weeks later the global financial crisis struck – economists would call that ignoring the bottom line.

Despite the label, the summit today does not actually bring together the world’s greatest economies. Instead of Italy and Canada, India and China should be attending the summits. That is why, following the onset of the financial crisis, the G20 was established to allow for economic consultations that include the world’s rapidly growing newly industrialized nations. That would have been the right moment for the G7 to disband. But rather than facing reality, members just kept believing in their own importance. And so, the group was simply redefined as a community bound by shared values. Which is just as ludicrous as calling NATO a community bound by shared values, given that the alliance never objected to Greek and Turkish dictators.

Multilateralism not in the cards anytime soon

Watch video00:21

Merkel: Trump’s G7 tweets ‘sobering and depressing’

NATO, just like the G7, is nothing more than a community bound by some – but not all – values. And the US, which is the most powerful member in both clubs, has now opted to alter its trade interests – with backing from American voters. Surveys show US President Donald Trump’s supporters appreciate his uncompromising stance. Meaning that a return to multilateralism is not in the cards any time soon, no matter how hopeful Europeans may be.

With agreements on economic matters now out of the question, the G7 has lost its main reason for existing. All other topics were little more than embellishments, after all. This does not mean trans-Atlantic ties have been severed. A multitude of other summits still exists. But Chancellor Merkel is certainly right that now more than ever, the EU must speak with one voice. It is an appeal Merkel herself will need to heed, as she knows just how much tensions her government’s course is creating within the bloc.

COURTESY: DW

Donald Trump’s Call for Russia to Rejoin G-7 Jolts Start of Summit

Tensions among members, already high after public trade disputes, loom large in geopolitical talks

Clockwise from background center, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sits with President of France Emmanuel Macron, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Council Donald Tusk, British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and U.S. President Donald Trump as they take part in the Group of Seven industrialized nations summit in Canada, on June 8, 2018.
Clockwise from background center, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sits with President of France Emmanuel Macron, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Council Donald Tusk, British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and U.S. President Donald Trump as they take part in the Group of Seven industrialized nations summit in Canada, on June 8, 2018. PHOTO: SEAN KILPATRICK/ASSOCIATED PRESS

President Donald Trump’s suggestion to have Russia rejoin the Group of Seven industrialized nations and his recent imposition of metals tariffs on U.S. allies rattled the start of the G-7 summit, exposing fissures among the group’s members.

The summit is emerging as a test of whether the exclusive group of major industrialized economies can overcome growing tensions to focus on more common-ground issues such as bringing stability to the Korean Peninsula and the Middle East—including the complex question of the Iran nuclear accord.

An afternoon session on the economy and trade was predictable and inconclusive, and saw Mr. Trump pitted against the six other countries, according to a person familiar with the deliberations. There was strong disagreement among the leaders but no significant clash, the person said.

Mr. Trump’s surprising comment ahead of the summit for Russia to be allowed back into the G-7, four years after it was expelled over its annexation of Crimea, added to the uncertainty.

“Why are we having a meeting without Russia?” the president asked as he left the White House for the summit Friday. “We have a world to run…We should have Russia at the negotiating table.”

The comment added another wrinkle to a two-day gathering already rife with tension over U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum produced by its closest Western allies—and triggered sharply different responses from other G-7 members.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters Friday inviting Russia back is a nonstarter: “There are no grounds whatsoever for bringing Russia with its current behavior back into the G-7.” ​

Hot Button IssueTrade plays an increasingly important role in the global economy. And concerns about recent U.S. tariffs willlikely take center stage at the G-7 meeting.Trade as a share of GDP for G-7 countriesSource: World Bank
%U.S.CanadaJapanFranceGermanyU.K.ItalyWorld1970’75’80’85’90’952000’05’10’150255075100

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said in an interview with Sky News the G-7 needed to be wary of Russian re-entry.

“Before discussions could begin on any of this, we would have to ensure Russia is amending its ways and taking a different route,” said Mrs. May.

Yet Italy’s new prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, backed Mr. Trump’s suggestion on Friday. “I agree with President Trump: Russia should re-enter the G-8. It’s in everyone’s interests,” he said on Twitter.

Moscow appeared indifferent in its initial response to Mr. Trump’s comment.

“We are concentrating on other formats” apart from the G-7, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to Russian state news agencies’ reports.

European Council President Donald Tusk said Friday that it was evident that Mr. Trump and the leaders of other G-7 countries continue to disagree on trade, climate change and the Iran nuclear deal.

“The rules-based international order is being challenged, quite surprisingly, not by the usual suspects, but by its main architect and guarantor, the U.S.,” he said during a briefing in the Quebec resort town of La Malbaie, where the G-7 summit is being held.

A Japanese official said Japan is in sync with the Europeans on trade and is trying to persuade the U.S. to rethink its tariffs, which the Trump administration imposed on national-security grounds.

G-7 leaders posed for the customary family photo during the summit Friday.
G-7 leaders posed for the customary family photo during the summit Friday. PHOTO: /AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Mr. Tusk said a priority is persuading the U.S. to strengthen the current format of the G-7 as a guarantor of the world order.

John Kirton, head of the University of Toronto’s G-7 research group, said it is for the best that Mr. Trump is at the table talking to America’s longstanding allies.

“It’s much better to talk to him face to face and ask him, ‘What’s on your mind? What do you want? Isn’t there a deal to be done?’” he said.

Related Video

How Will Allies Respond to Trump’s Tariffs?

Will President Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum for the EU and others cause U.S. allies to retaliate? The Wall Street Journal’s Gerald F. Seib explains. Photo: Getty

Tensions escalated between Mr. Trump and President Emmanuel Macron of France, who until now has been Mr. Trump’s closest ally in the European Union, on Thursday.

Mr. Macron said at a news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa on Thursday that the U.S.’s steel and aluminum tariffs against the European Union and Canada are pushing the six remaining nations of the G-7 to become a force of their own.

“Maybe Mr. Trump doesn’t mind that he’s being isolated,” Mr. Macron said, “but these six countries have shared values that represent an economic market of true international strength.”

Uneven RecoveryWhile most advanced economies have rebounded from the global economic crisis, some still lag.Change since 2007 in inflation-adjusted GDP among G-7 countriesSource: International Monetary FundNote: Germany’s 2016 data and all 2017 and 2018 data are estimates.
%U.S.CanadaJapanFranceGermanyU.K.Italy2007’08’09’10’11’12’13’14’15’16’17’18-10-505101520

Mr. Trump fired back with a message on Twitter that said, “Please tell Prime Minister Trudeau and President Macron that they are charging the U.S. massive tariffs and create nonmonetary barriers. The EU trade surplus with the U.S. is $151 Billion, and Canada keeps our farmers and others out. Look forward to seeing them tomorrow.”

Eswar Prasad, senior professor of trade policy and economics at Cornell University, said Mr. Trump’s actions and words leading up to and at the G-7 meetings “punctuate his dismissive view of multilateralism.”

“It is remarkable to see the U.S. so isolated amidst a gathering of longstanding allies that have traditionally shared similar economic and political systems and a common set of values,” he said.

Statements from some leaders ahead of the G-7 gathering warned that blunt talk with Mr. Trump would be likely and that the seven countries might fail to agree to a summit-ending communiqué, which would buck tradition.

“We will see where we land,” Ms. Freeland said about plans to issue an agreed-upon communiqué.

A European official said officials are exploring a final statement that would list the countries’ different views, but a failure to agree on a common document is still possible.

Mr. Trump leaves Saturday around mid-morning, before the G-7 tackle issues surrounding climate change, and the protection of coastal communities. The other G-7 leaders will hold press conferences late Saturday afternoon.

This week, Germany showed signs of trying to dial down tensions. Germany is one of the world’s largest exporters, and its economy is highly dependent on trade.

On Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to increase Germany’s defense budget in a partial concession to the U.S., which has long objected to Germany’s relatively low military spending.

Mr. Trump had raised the pressure on Berlin in recent weeks by linking the issue to his attempt to rewrite the terms of the U.S.-Europe trade relationship.

Write to Kim Mackrael at kim.mackrael@wsj.com, Paul Vieira at paul.vieira@wsj.com and Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com

COURTESY: WSJ

Merkel Responds to Macron’s Plan to Overhaul EU With One of Her Own

German chancellor’s suggestions, including combining defense capabilities and building a common eurozone investment fund, draw praise from France

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, seen on May 31, on Sunday proposed beefing up an existing backstop for cash-strapped members of the eurozone and creating a joint budget for the currency union.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, seen on May 31, on Sunday proposed beefing up an existing backstop for cash-strapped members of the eurozone and creating a joint budget for the currency union. PHOTO: PEDRO FIUZA/NURPHOTO/ZUMA PRESS

German Chancellor Angela Merkel outlined proposals for overhauling and strengthening the architecture of the European Union in an interview published on Sunday, including combining nations’ defense capabilities and building a common investment fund for the eurozone.

While the suggestions broadly matched known German positions about the bloc’s future, they marked Ms. Merkel’s most direct and detailed reaction to proposals for overhauling the EU that French President Emmanuel Macron laid out in September.

The proposals, including beefing up an existing backstop for cash-strapped members of the eurozone and creating a joint budget for the currency union, came after capital markets briefly sank after the formation of a populist Italian government last week, evoking memories of the 2010 eurozone crisis.

They also come against a backdrop of mounting trans-Atlantic tension after President Donald Trump slapped the EU with steep tariffs on steel and aluminum. Some analysts have predicted his aggressive stance could prompt EU members to bury their differences on a number of divisive issues.

“America is and remains the superpower, but at the moment it doesn’t recognize multilateral agreements in all areas, as shown by the decision to leave the [Paris] climate accord and now the tariffs that President Trump has levied against Europe,” Ms. Merkel told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung weekly.

Institutional changes to the EU would ensure that “its voice is taken seriously in the world,” she said.

French officials welcomed Ms. Merkel’s proposals, even if her ideas for the eurozone fell short of Mr. Macron’s ambitions. The 40-year-old French leader has called for a deeper overhaul that would see eurozone countries share more resources and liabilities in a budget as large as several percentage points of eurozone economic output. That would potentially place the largest burdens on Germany and France, respectively the two largest eurozone economies.

Without steps toward such burden sharing, he said, the next economic shock could pull apart the 19-nation currency bloc.

“France and Germany still need to work on these subjects in the coming weeks for a more ambitious accord on banking union and the fiscal capacity for the eurozone,” an official at Mr. Macron’s office said Sunday.

An official at the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, welcomed the chancellor’s comments, saying the interview showed “that Merkel is determined to shape Europe in an ambitious and responsible manner in the coming months.”

French President Emmanuel Macron, seen on May 30, articulated his vision for the EU’s future in a September speech at Paris’s La Sorbonne university.
French President Emmanuel Macron, seen on May 30, articulated his vision for the EU’s future in a September speech at Paris’s La Sorbonne university. PHOTO: CHRISTOPHE MORIN/BLOOMBERG NEWS

The comments suggest a new willingness by Ms. Merkel to engage with Mr. Macron’s proposals, despite signs this year that the chancellor would cede to domestic pressure to keep any eurozone overhauls to a minimum.

Ms. Merkel is under pressure from the conservative wing of her own center-right party and the euroskeptic Alternative for Germany, which swept into Parliament in September, to shun fiscal handouts to southern Europe.

Germany isn’t alone: Eight northern European finance ministers, led by the Netherlands, warned in a letter in March against any far-reaching eurozone overhauls.

Sunday’s interview marked more significant rapprochement with Mr. Macron on topics including migration and public investment in innovation and technology. “It’s a positive move that shows the European commitment of the chancellor and her government,” the official said.

The chancellor also backed Mr. Macron’s plans for a common European defense force, which have previously won little support in Berlin. Deeper military cooperation could help reduce complexity and overlapping systems, and could be extended to the U.K. after it leaves the bloc next March, Ms. Merkel said.

As they try to set a road map for eurozone overhauls by the end of the month, Mr. Macron and Ms. Merkel plan to meet at the meeting of the Group of Seven leading nations in Canada on Friday and Saturday.

“The chancellor is revitalizing the European overhaul process that has been started to strengthen Europe’s ability to act in an uncertain and unstable world,” one EU official said.

Ms. Merkel’s comments followed a week of tumultuous politics in Italy, the eurozone’s No. 3 economy, and precede an EU summit this month where leaders hope to agree on plans to strengthen the currency union.

German officials have increasingly voiced their frustration with the U.S. government’s decisions to abandon key international accords, including the Iran nuclear deal, and impose restrictions on international trade that threaten Germany’s large export sector.

Ms. Merkel’s proposals included a common investment fund for the eurozone, with an annual budget in the low-two-digit-billion-euro range, that could help boost the bloc’s technological capabilities. That falls well short of Mr. Macron’s proposal that envisaged an instrument with budgetary firepower of around €200 billion ($233.2 billion).

Ms. Merkel also called for the eurozone’s €500 billion rescue fund, the centerpiece of its crisis-fighting strategy, to be converted into a European version of the International Monetary Fund that could offer long-term loans under conditions to stressed governments as well as short-term credit lines.

The fund should be equipped with tools to monitor government budget policies and address concerns about fiscal sustainability, she said. The idea partly stems from a desire to reduce Europe’s dependency on the IMF, but it is also driven by German concern that the European Commission is becoming more politicized and that enforcement of fiscal rules should be trusted to a new, independent body.

Mr. Macron articulated his vision for the EU’s future in a September speech at Paris’s La Sorbonne university. Ms. Merkel hadn’t publicly respond directly to Mr. Macron’s ideas, in part because Germany was plunged into months of political uncertainty following September’s inconclusive general election.

Ms. Merkel also warned in the interview that the EU’s border-security and asylum policy should be strengthened because they had become an “existential question” for the bloc. She suggested the turbulence in Italian politics resulted in part from weaknesses in the EU’s current asylum processes, and called for a common system for processing asylum seekers and a more powerful border police force.

“Part of the insecurity in Italy is because Italians felt they were left alone after Libya’s collapse to deal with the task of taking in the many refugees and migrants from Africa,” she said.

Write to Tom Fairless at tom.fairless@wsj.com and William Horobin at William.Horobin@wsj.com

Trump pulls United States out of Iran nuclear deal, calling the pact ‘an embarrassment’

 1:30
Trump announces U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal

President Trump said May 8 that the United States would reinstate sanctions on Iran and warned other states against helping Iran with its nuclear program. 

 May 8 at 5:30 PM 
President Trump on Tuesday said he is pulling the United States out of the international nuclear deal with Iran, announcing that economic sanctions against Tehran will be reinstated and declaring that the 2015 pact had been rooted in “fiction.”

Trump’s decision, announced at the White House, makes good on a campaign pledge to undo an accord he has criticized as weak, poorly negotiated and “insane.”

“The Iran deal is defective at its core. If we do nothing, we know exactly what will happen,” Trump said in remarks at the White House. “In just a short period of time, the world’s leading state-sponsor of terror will be on the cusp of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons.”

The move amounts to Trump’s most significant foreign policy decision to date. While he cast the U.S. action as essential for national security and a warning to Iran and any other nuclear aspirant that “the United States no longer makes empty threats,” it could also increase tensions with key U.S. allies that heavily lobbied the administration in recent weeks not to abandon the pact and see it as key to keeping peace in the region. They unsuccessfully tried to convince Trump that his concerns about “flaws” in the accord could be addressed without violating its terms or ending it altogether.

Following Trump’s announcement, the leaders of Britain, France and Germany issued a join statement expressing “regret and concern” and pledged their “continuing commitment” to terms of the agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA.

 3:46
Trump is pulling the U.S. out of the Iran deal. What’s next?

The Post’s Alan Sipress and Karen DeYoung explain how President Trump’s decision might affect an already tense Middle East. 

“This resolution remains the binding international legal framework for the resolution of the dispute about the Iranian nuclear programme,” British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in their statement. “We urge all sides to remain committed to its full implementation and to act in a spirit of responsibility.”

That was a plea to Iran not to take steps that would break the deal, something Iranian officials have said at times they would do if Trump followed through on his frequent threats to yank the United States out of the agreement.

While the U.S. exit does not render the rest of the agreement moot, it is not clear whether there is enough incentive on the parts of Iran and its international trading partners to sustain the agreement. Relief from U.S. banking sanctions was a main incentive for Tehran to come to the table.

“In response to US persistent violations & unlawful withdrawal from the nuclear deal, as instructed by President Rouhani, I’ll spearhead a diplomatic effort to examine whether remaining JCPOA participants can ensure its full benefits for Iran,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted. “Outcome will determine our response.”

The United States will reimpose all sanctions and could add new ones, U.S. officials said.

Discussions would begin Wednesday with allies about new negotiations, White House national security adviser John Bolton said.

Bolton, filling in some of the blanks in Trump’s remarks, said that all U.S. nuclear-related sanctions lifted as part of the agreement are now back in effect. “We’re out of the deal. Right now. We’re out of the deal,” he said.

A memorandum signed by Trump at the conclusion of his statement means that “no new contracts” with Iran will be permitted, Bolton said. Although the United States cannot prevent the Europeans or others from financial relationships with Iran, nearly all global transactions at some point pass through dollar exchanges and U.S. banks, arrangements that are now prohibited.

Existing contracts, he said, would be subject to “wind-down provisions” of between 90 days to six months, after which they will be required to “phase out.” Regulations giving specific time frames, he said, would be announced by the Treasury Department. Existing contracts and those in process include major oil sales from Iran as well as purchases, such as civilian aircraft from Boeing and Airbus.

“These are very, very strong sanctions they worked last time. That’s why Iran came to the table,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters. “Our objective is to — again — eliminate transactions and eliminate access to their oil industry.”

Trump’s declaration puts a variety of companies in difficult positions. Though the French oil giant Total had hoped the contract it signed would be excluded from the newly reimposed sanctions, that seemed unlikely on Tuesday.

The U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal also boosts the outlook for crude oil prices. Before the nuclear deal, the Obama administration had squeezed traders and refiners from buying Iranian oil, wringing a series of 20 percent cuts in purchases until more than 1 million barrels a day of Iran’s exports had been taken off world markets. Fear of a similar mechanism has been one factor bolstering oil prices in recent weeks, though prices sagged on Tuesday. The price of West Texas Intermediate grade of crude fell about 1.4 percent, slipping to $69.74 a barrel.

Trump immediately faced questions about whether he has a plan for dealing with Iran beyond scrapping the accord and the administration will be under pressure to now show it has a strategy for the Middle East beyond undoing what was put in place under former president Barack Obama.

“I don’t see a path,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, stressing that even if Trump had promised during the campaign to rip up and replace the Iran deal, “they don’t have a real plan here.”

Obama considered the agreement a signature foreign policy accomplishment, calling it the best way to head off the near-term threat of a nuclear armed Iran and a potential opening toward better relations with Tehran after more than three decades of enmity.

Obama on Tuesday lamented Trump’s decision and sought to counter his criticism that the accord had done little check Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“The reality is clear. The JCPOA is working — that is a view shared by our European allies, independent experts, and the current U.S. Secretary of Defense,” Obama said in a statement. “The JCPOA is in America’s interest — it has significantly rolled back Iran’s nuclear program.”

Trump said Iran was lying throughout negotiations for the international deal, and cited secret Iranian documents revealed last week by Israel, that showed the Iranian regime had concealed a nuclear weapons program in the 1990s.

“America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail. We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction, and we will not allow a regime that chants ‘Death to America’ to gain access to the most deadly weapons on earth,” Trump said.

The chant was a fixture of pro-government rallies in Iran for decades, but despite use during a major anti-Trump rally last year it has largely fallen out of favor as a propaganda tool.

Trump invoked the current diplomatic efforts with North Korea and the possibility of a compact to rid the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons as emblematic of how he is conducting major international negotiations, saying any deal he cut would be airtight.

The reaction to the president’s decision did not split neatly along party lines. While GOP leaders applauded his decision, heralding it as an opportunity to strike a new and better arrangement, several other senior Republicans — including those who voted against the Iran deal — said the decision to withdraw as “foolhardy” and “a mistake.”

“The Iran Deal is a deeply flawed agreement … however, without proof that Iran is in violation of the agreement, it is a mistake to fully withdraw from this deal,” said Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio), a senior member of both the House Armed Services and Intelligence committees.

Even House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement that it was “unfortunate” that the United States could not come up with a way of fixing the Iran deal instead of withdrawing, thanking the European parties to the pact for trying to work with the United States “toward that goal.” He expressed hope that they might be able to find a new way of addressing Iranian aggression before new sanctions are implemented.

But other GOP leaders cheered the move, saying it was needed to push both allies and Iran to strike a new and more restrictive bargain.

“President Trump is right to abandon the Obama administration’s bad deal,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in a statement, adding that Congress must have a role in any new agreement.

Democratic leaders excoriated the president for a “rash” and shortsighted decisions that they argue will compromise security in the Middle East and around the world.

“The President’s decision to abdicate American leadership during a critical moment in our effort to advance a denuclearization agreement with North Korea is particularly senseless, disturbing and dangerous,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Josh Dawsey, Seung Min Kim, Damian Paletta, Philip Rucker, John Hudson, Karoun Demirjian and Steven Mufson contributed to this report.

Allies and adversaries alike worry as Trump sets stage for reveal on Iran deal

Allies and adversaries alike worry as Trump sets stage for reveal on Iran deal
President Trump boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Saturday. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)

 

President Trump on Tuesday could make good on his longstanding threat to tear up the Iran nuclear accord — or he could heap fresh disdain on the landmark disarmament pact while charting a course that would keep key elements in place, at least for now.

On Monday, five days ahead of a closely-watched, self-imposed deadline, the president teased his planned announcement with a tweet, telling the world to stay tuned for word at 2 p.m. Tuesday, catching even most of his senior national security staff by surprise.

The decision, potentially one of the most consequential of Trump’s presidency, will have repercussions in nearly every corner of the globe. It could ratchet up tensions in the already volatile Middle East, strain U.S. alliances with Europe and complicate dealings with Russia and China, which are signatories to the pact.

On the campaign trail, and in campaign-style rallies since taking office, Trump has again and again roared out his opposition to what he has called the worst deal ever — one that is, not coincidentally, considered one of his predecessor’s signature achievements.

His new national security advisor, John Bolton, is a staunch opponent of the Obama-era accord between Iran and six world powers, heightening speculation that Trump would deliver a coup de grace by immediately reimposing U.S. sanctions that were lifted as part of the 2015 accord. He has held up doing so in past opportunities, saying he was giving European allies a chance to toughen up the deal.

Those allies have pleaded with Trump to preserve the accord, or at least give them more time to fix it. They note that the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency empowered to inspect Iranian facilities, has repeatedly found Tehran in compliance with the terms of the deal.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel coordinated back-to-back White House visits last month in which they urged Trump to stay in the deal. Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May spoke with Trump by phone over the weekend and followed up by dispatching her foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, for a last-minute visit to Washington.

In an appearance Monday on “Fox & Friends,” Trump’s favorite cable show, Johnson cast Trump in a flattering statesmanlike light, saying he was correct to criticize the Iran pact.

“The president is right to see flaws in [the accord], and he set a very reasonable challenge to the world,” Johnson said. “He said, ‘Look, Iran is behaving badly, has a tendency to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles. We’ve got to stop that. We’ve got to push back on what Iran is doing in the region. We’ve got to be tougher.'”

Germany, France and Britain have all suggested they have no intention of leaving the deal. But it’s not clear how major European companies and other multinational corporations, including in banking and energy, could avoid running afoul of U.S. sanctions if Trump restores them.

Iran, for its part, telegraphed fresh defiance — but stopped far short of saying it would abandon the deal, or resume its now-blocked nuclear program, if Trump pulls out.

“We are not worried about America’s cruel decisions,” President Hassan Rouhani declared in a speech that was aired on Iranian state television Monday. “We are prepared for all scenarios, and no change will occur in our lives.”

Heading into Tuesday’s announcement, Trump kept up his criticism of the agreement, denouncing former Secretary of State John Kerry’s reported back-channel attempts to save the deal.

Kerry, who served as lead negotiator on the deal for the Obama administration, has in recent months held private strategy consultations with foreign officials aimed at bolstering the deal’s chances of surviving, the Boston Globe reported on Friday.

One of Kerry’s interlocutors was Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, whom he met on the sidelines of a conference last year in Oslo, Norway. Zarif recently warned that if the accord was scrapped, Iran might restart its nuclear program.

Trump took angry exception to the report of Kerry’s contacts.

“The United States does not need John Kerry’s possibly illegal Shadow Diplomacy on the very badly negotiated Iran Deal,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “He was the one that created this MESS in the first place!”

The 2015 accord lifted crippling sanctions that had locked Iran out of international banking and the global oil trade. In return, Tehran limited its ability to enrich uranium, reconfigured a heavy-water reactor to block it from producing plutonium, reduced its uranium stockpile, and agreed to international inspections and monitoring.

Trump is widely expected to abandon the deal, but experts say he also could claim victory by imposing supplemental sanctions that leave the nuclear restrictions in place but clamp down harder on his other concerns.

As recently as last week, administration officials were discussing ways to strengthen three aspects of the nuclear deal: by expanding the U.N. inspections, ending the time limits or “sunset clauses” on some of the nuclear restrictions, and adding new sanctions aimed at curbing Iran’s production of ballistic missiles.

“If they’re able to strengthen those three provisions in a way that’s considered fool-proof,” Trump could find a way to stay in, said a former administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Jim Hanson, a Trump ally who heads the right-leaning Center for Security Studies, said Trump is facing enormous pressure from Europeans and other proponents not to withdraw from the nuclear deal.

But pulling out has become as intrinsically linked to Trump’s persona as building a giant wall on the border with Mexico, another campaign pledge he has yet to fulfill.

“I don’t see how he can be Trump and stay in,” Hanson said.

Trump has several options, in addition to tearing the deal up and staying in. He could also choose to continue discussions to rework the deal. Or he could decline to recertify the deal without formally pulling out.

He faces a May 12 deadline on whether to renew waivers that eased sanctions on Iran’s central bank, which deals with Iran’s oil exports. Another set of sanctions, focused on more than 400 Iranian companies, individuals and sectors, is up for renewal on July 11.

Trump could reimpose only the central bank sanctions. That would give companies or countries 180 days to reduce their oil purchases from Iran, giving them more time to search for a solution. Hitting all 400 targets at the start would be far more drastic, and could create a crisis.

Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, who has written extensively about the administration’s dealings with Iran, said Trump’s often-harsh rhetoric surrounding the accord belied a “very deliberately ambiguous set of positions” that could be reflected in Tuesday’s announcement.

“My guess would be that he is going to at least threaten to restore sanctions at some point,” he said. “He doesn’t have to do it this time.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to foreshadow the decision. But she told reporters that Kerry’s efforts to save the deal were not affecting deliberations.

“I don’t think that we would take advice from somebody who created what the president sees to be one of the worst deals ever made,” she said. “I’m not sure why we would start listening to him now.”

Trump keeps U.S. allies on edge ahead of steel tariffs deadline

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
 April 30 at 1:32 PM
President Trump on Monday neared a midnight deadline for one of the most consequential economic decisions of his presidency, whether to exempt key allies from steel and aluminum tariffs, but both cabinet members and foreign leaders remained unsure how the commander in chief will proceed.

“The president has not made any decision yet,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in an interview that aired Monday on Fox Business Network. Over the weekend, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that the White House would grant some countries relief, but he wouldn’t say which ones.

The deadline is a key test for Trump’s trade strategy and diplomacy, pitting his highly personal bargaining style against the determination of major U.S. trade partners and allies to hold fast and retaliate if necessaryunder World Trade Organization rules.

Trump has shown a willingness to both befriend and berate almost every ally and adversary, a dynamic that has played out in the past two months as he has tried to lure many of them into making concessions in exchange for delaying tariffs.

“We are in uncharted territory in terms of trade policy,” Chad Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute of International Economics, said. “What President Trump has done is make everything uncertain in trade policy. You don’t know on almost day-to-day basis what trade policy is going to be and businesses find it very difficult to operate in that kind of environment.”

Earlier this year, the Commerce Department issued a report alleging that the U.S. reliance on imported steel and aluminum posed a national security threat. In March, Trump used that finding to announce steep tariffs against China and Japan, temporarily offering exemptions for many other countries.

Ross said in an interview with The Post that Trump was acting within his authority. He said that under section 232 of a key U.S. trade law Trump “has very broad powers. He can raise the tariffs. He can lower them. He can let countries in and let them out.”

In recent weeks, Trump has met with leaders from three U.S. allies caught in the middle of the tariff debate.French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel appealed last week to Trump to alter his stance, yet the administration has continued to press for concessions and there is no guarantee that they will be spared.

European leaders have threatened a series of countermeasures if Trump goes ahead with his proposed tariffs. The European actions would target items such as motorcycles and bourbon, which are produced in Republican electoral strongholds.

In March, the administration set aside tariffs it had proposed on South Korean steel and aluminum manufacturers. In return, South Korea amended its U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, accepting quotas that will cut its steel exports to the United States by 30 percent below the average of the past three years.

The Trump administration has pushed European nations to adopt the same approach, but European leaders do not want to do so. “We are asking for them either to be in the tariff mode or to accept a quota,” Ross said.

Quotas, however, are more appealing in some ways than tariffs, Bown said, because the governments of exporting countries get revenue by selling export permits to their own firms without paying anything to the U.S. government. The U.S. government would gain revenue from taxes on higher priced steel and aluminum. Consumers would pay higher prices.

The role of China looms large in all these talks. South Korea is the third largest steel exporter to the United States and the top importer of Chinese steel, which some trade experts say made it a conduit for Chinese exports to the United States.

The Chinese government in recent decades fostered massive domestic steel and aluminum industries, which have shipped their goods around the world in a way that pushed down prices. China accounts for barely 6 percent of U.S. steel imports, but Trump says that the worldwide flood of cheap steel is one factor that has led to the closure of numerous U.S. smelters, and the loss of American jobs.

A number of other countries have agreed with U.S. officials for decades that China needs to do more to address a global oversupply of steel and aluminum, but so far they have taken measured steps at international gatherings to try to prod China toward change. Trump upended this approach by declaring he would act unilaterally, and threatening to slap tariffs on numerous U.S. allies, not just China.

“The Chinese have created the overcapacity problem,” William Reinsch, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said. “It’s one of the few cases in the trade business where you can assign blame and be accurate. It’s not that big a leap to say that if it is their fault it is not unreasonable to design a policy that pushes the problem back on them.”

Canada and Mexico, which would be hit by Trump’s initial proposal for broad tariffs on steel and aluminum, will be given extensions, Ross told Bloomberg News over the weekend. Canada is the single biggest source of U.S. steel imports.

Staff writer Heather Long contributed to this article.

 Courtesy: TWP
%d bloggers like this: