Washington: President Donald Trump said on Thursday he would withdraw the United States from the landmark 2015 global agreement to fight climate change, a move that fulfilled a major campaign pledge but drew sharp criticism from U.S. allies and business leaders.
Trump, reinforcing the "America First" message he used when he was elected president last year, said the Paris accord would undermine the U.S. economy, cost U.S. jobs, weaken American national sovereignty and put the country at a permanent disadvantage to the other countries of the world.
"We don't want other leaders and other countries laughing at us any more. And they won't be," he said.
"The same nations asking us to stay in the agreement are the countries that have collectively cost America trillions of dollars through tough trade practices and in many cases lax contributions to our critical military alliance," Trump added.
Former Democratic President Barack Obama expressed regret over the pullout from a deal he was instrumental in brokering.
"But even in the absence of American leadership; even as this administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I'm confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we've got," Obama said.
"Today's decision is a setback for the environment and for the US's leadership position in the world," Goldman Sachs Group Inc Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein wrote on Twitter.
Trump, who has called climate change a hoax, said his administration would begin negotiations either to re-enter the Paris accord or to have a new agreement "on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers." He complained in particular about China's terms under the agreement.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said in a rare joint statement the agreement could not be renegotiated and urged their allies to hasten efforts to combat climate change. They pledged to do more to help developing countries adapt.
"While the US decision is disheartening, we remain inspired by the growing momentum around the world to combat climate change and transition to clean growth economies," said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
China's state news agency Xinhua published a commentary on Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris accord, describing it as a "global setback."
Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who is the incoming head of the UN Climate Change Conferences, which formalised the 2015 Paris accord, called Trump's decision "deeply disappointing".
"We're getting out," Trump said at a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden.
"I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris," the Republican president added.
The spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the action a "major disappointment."
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in Singapore on Friday that the US decision was "disappointing... but not at all surprising," adding that Australia remained "committed to our Paris commitments."