With less than three months until the election, President Obama has committed the US to a carbon emissions agreement with China. Negotiations were made without Senate approval.
President Obama met with Chinese Presdient Xi Jinping on Saturday in Hangzhou to finalize both nations’ plans to reduce carbon emissions according to last year’s COP21 summit. Both leaders submitted their plans to the UN on Saturday. The US plan was dubbed an “executive agreement” and therefore required no Senate approval.
“I believe that history will judge today’s efforts as pivotal,” said Obama. The President also spoke with Xi about several areas in which Washington and Beijing do not agree, including China’s engagement in cyber warfare, its territorial grabs in the South China Sea, and its human rights abuses.
“We will have candid conversations about some of those differences, issues like human rights, or cyber, or maritime,” said Obama. “I am absolutely committed to ensuring not only that this is a productive meeting but that we are also setting the stage so that the next US administration comes in with a relationship that is on a strong and productive footing.”
Despite Obama’s words, our relationship with China is anything but “strong and productive.” In recent months, the Asian power has joined Russia and Iran in bullying us with dangerous military movements.
This tension was apparent as soon as Obama’s plane touched down in Hangzhou, with Chinese security attempting to keep media away from the president. “This is our country. This is our airport,” said a Chinese official.
Obama’s talks with Xi were also fraught with tension. “Part of what I’ve tried to communicate to President Xi is that the US arrives at its power, in part, by restraining itself,” Obama told CNN. “So where we see them violating international rules and norms, as we have seen in some cases in the South China Sea or in some of their behavior when it comes to economic policy, we’ve been very firm,” he said. “And we’ve indicated to them that there will be consequences.”
President Obama will conduct a sort of “farewell tour” after the election when he travels to Peru in November for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, but this week’s visits to China and Laos are his last opportunity to talk face-to-face with world leaders before either Clinton or Trump makes him a lame duck.
President Obama met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday and has an upcoming meeting scheduled with Rodrigo Duterte, the controversial new leader of the Philippines.
President Erdogan is a prickly but indispensable ally – especially considering Turkey’s key role in the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Erdogan has been criticized recently by human rights groups for the harsh tactics he has adopted in response to the failed coup in July. On top of this is Turkey’s extradition request for Fetthulah Gulen, a US-based cleric who has been blamed for helping to plot the coup.
Other disagreements include Ankara’s ongoing airstrikes against the Syrian Kurds, a group the US is backing in the fight against ISIS.
Disagreements about Syria have also affected Obama’s rapport with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a delicate relationship now threatened by accusations that Russian intelligence agencies are behind July’s cyberattack on the DNC and other democratic organizations.
Editor’s note: For Obama to be making agreements with China is grandstanding at its worst. He has only a few months left in his administration. If Trump wins this will be disavowed, if Hillary wins it would be much better for her to make the agreement herself, rather than be committed by a lame duck predecessor.