No week goes by without his name on the news: Donald Trump, the current US president, has been breaking international agreement one after another.
Trump had previously threatened it, and since yesterday it is official: the US has left the World Health Organization (WHO). It is not the first time that the US President has broken away from an international organization or withdrawn from a treaty.
Overview of the international agreements
In late May, in full corona crisis, President Donald Trump said that the United States wanted to break with the WHO. America’s exit from the World Health Organization was confirmed yesterday by both the White House and the United Nations (UN).
The US has officially notified the UN Secretary-General of the WHO’s withdrawal from July 6, 2021, so the full withdrawal procedure will take one year. Trump accuses WHO of warning too late about the new coronavirus. He also believes that the World Health Organization is under the control of the Chinese government.
After Trump’s inauguration in 2017, the United States unilaterally broke the 1994 NAFTA treaty. According to the President, the North American Free Trade Agreement had destroyed many American jobs. The countries concerned – Canada, Mexico, and the United States – then embark on difficult negotiations on a new agreement. These eventually led to the creation of the USMCA (US-Mexico-Canada Agreement), which was ratified by the three countries in December 2019.
The new trade agreement entered into force at the beginning of this month. A boost for Trump, as a revision of NAFTA was one of his key campaign promises in 2016. The USMCA includes stricter rules on labor, among other things. This should somewhat offset the advantage of Mexico’s relatively low wages over the other two countries.
It is no secret that Trump does not run high with the World Trade Organization (WTO). According to sources in the White House, he threatened to leave the multilateral organization several times in 2018. It did not come to that. Incidentally, Trump cannot decide to leave the WTO on his own. He can announce that, but before he actually leaves, Congress has to change the law.
In January 2017 – again shortly after his election – Trump also blew up ties with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This is a free trade agreement that the US had concluded a year earlier with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Trump withdrew from the treaty because he believed that such agreements were at the expense of American workers. In the end, TPP never entered into force.
In 2018, Trump called the atomic agreement with Iran a “disastrous outcome”. This was concluded in 2015 by the US, Russia, China, France, England, Germany, and the European Union. According to Trump, however, the agreement offered no guarantee that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons, to which the US dropped the agreement.
According to The New York Times, Trump threatened to leave NATO several times in 2018. Again it did not come to that, but the threat does say something about the image that the American President has about the political-military alliance that was created after World War II. And the one that remains the most important security guarantee for Europe today. In the past, too little defense spending by some Member States has been a thorny issue for the President on several occasions. When he was still a presidential candidate, Trump threatened to abandon countries that do not pay their contribution in an attack.
Without consulting NATO allies, Trump decided in late 2018 to withdraw 2,000 US soldiers from Syria. The President motivated that decision by claiming that the terror group IS had been defeated, and the US forces were no longer needed there.
In May 2020, Trump announced that the United States is withdrawing from the Open Skies treaty, which will allow military movements and weapon reductions to be verified from the countries that signed the treaty. “Russia has not complied with the treaty,” the US President motivated the withdrawal.
“As long as they don’t comply, we will withdraw.” The international treaty allows countries to conduct unarmed observation flights over each other’s territories, in an attempt to build “transparency and trust”. The treaty, which was concluded three decades ago, allows 34 countries, including the US and Russia, to conduct such observation flights. Moscow denies that it has violated Open Skies.
The INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) treaty expired in the summer of 2019. The accord was created in 1987 and obliged Washington and Moscow in the post-Cold War era to destroy all their nuclear missiles and cruise missiles with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The US had accused Russia of violating the INF Treaty by producing missiles capable of traveling distances prohibited by the Treaty. Washington, therefore, announced its intention to withdraw from the treaty. Then Moscow also blew up the agreement.
With regard to climate, Trump also turned its back on the Paris Climate Convention. Again because he thought the agreement was “not fair” to American citizens. The treaty was signed by 174 countries on 22 April 2016. More than a year later, the United States withdrew from the agreement.