Number 1 priority is to get the best deal for America

White House press secretary Sean Spicer Photo: Twitter
Quick question for you related to the Paris climate agreement.  Why does the president feel it’s important to continue to reduce carbon emissions and export clean energy technology?

Spicer: I think he understands the importance of clean air and clean water, as I just mentioned, and a healthy environment, but also doing so in a way that provides American workers and our economy a way to grow. But obviously, as administrator Pruitt pointed out, we’ve got a lot of technology that we can export to other countries and help them.

A very simple definition of climate change is a change in the earth’s weather patterns. The EPA administrator said today that he does feel there is some value to the studies that say the earth is warming somewhat. Does the president share the EPA administrator’s thoughts on this topic? And why has the administration sort of backed away from using the words “climate change”?

I don’t — I have not had an opportunity to specifically talk to the president about that.

Yesterday, the president painted a pretty dire economic picture if the US were to stay in the Paris accord, saying it would be disastrous for the economy. Yet dozens of the top CEOs of American corporations lobbied the president in order to stay in the Paris accord. Why would the president argue that this is bad for the economy if all those CEOs are saying, you know what, we need to do this? Is the president right about the economic forecasts and all those private sector leaders are wrong?

I think the president took input from a lot of individuals and there were other sectors that were very concerned about the implementation of it. Frankly, I think there were some companies and some organisations that are among those that you mentioned that, while they maybe wanted to stay in, also expressed concern about the target levels. But at the end of the day, the president’s number one priority is to get the best deal for the American people. This is who they elected last year. I think one of the things that we’ve got to remember is that the president was very clear on the campaign trail about his position on this, but he was also clear that he was going to negotiate the best deal for the American people. And if you look at all of the deals that we have — whether they’re the trade deals or Paris — the president has made it very clear that he’s committed to getting the best deal for America, America’s workers, America’s manufacturers.

The president’s critics are claiming that pulling out of the accord will lift China as a global leader.  Do you agree with that sentiment? What does the White House have to say about that?

I think part of the reason that the president said it was a bad deal is because countries, including China, were not making substantial progress in reducing their carbon footprint. They weren’t doing enough and America was carrying the load. So I think by negotiating a better deal, hopefully we can get a better result for our country and the world.

President Emmanuel Macron of France delivered a sharply-worded speech in English attacking the US president on the climate change decision, saying it is bad for all of our children. And he specifically called on scientists to come and move to France. What’s the president’s response to Macron?

I think that the President has made it clear since day one that his job is to protect the interests of this country and our citizens. As he said, he was elected to represent Pittsburgh, not Paris.

Thanks, Sean. Two questions. Number one, when we heard the administrator talk about this decision on the Paris Climate Accord he said it’s not a signal that the U.S. wants to disengage on climate policy. So what are the steps that the administration is taking to engage internationally on climate? And secondly, as you well know, climate has been a key part of cooperation between the US and China. Will you try to replace that very important sort of intersection of interest with something else? Will you continue to do some technological cooperation on clean energy, for example, with the Chinese? Do you have any thoughts on that?

Well, this is a decision that was just made yesterday afternoon, and I think the president is going to engage both with domestic stakeholders — he mentioned in the speech that he looks forward to talking to leaders in both parties about a way forward and reasonable ways in which we can engage in that. And then he’ll obviously talk — continue to talk to world leaders. But that’s a process that has to evolve.

And on China?

What’s that?

And on China? The relationship with China, the point of cooperation — have you guys given some thought to how you’ll manage? Because the model was, you manage tensions with China as the US government by having areas of cooperation, and this was previously an area of cooperation. There’s obviously other areas that the White House is working on now with China, but do you envision some other cooperation on the area of climate with the Chinese government?

Well, the relationship that President Trump has established with President Xi has been quite remarkable. He’s talked about it very clearly. And it’s a model in which they’ll continue to build their relationship and talk about issues, whether it’s this or North Korea or other areas — economic areas that they’re going to work together on.

So I think that the great thing about this issue is that the relationship that the President has and continues to build with President Xi is one that will allow them to move forward.
Edited excerpt from the briefing by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer to the media, in Washington on June 2

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