UN General Assembly pits Sovereigntists against Globalists

US President Donald Trump addresses the General Debate of the General Assembly of the United Nations at United Nations Headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 25 September 2018. The General Debate of the 73rd session begins on 25 September 2018. EPA-EFE/JASON SZENES

UN General Assembly pits Sovereigntists against Globalists


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“America will always choose independence over global governance, control and domination…We will never surrender American sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable global bureaucracy,” said US President Trump on Tuesday, September 25.

Sovereigntist message

His address to the UN General Assembly was iconic of US newfound aversion to multilateralism, with President Donald Trump warning that only states friendly to the US could expect aid.

The question henceforth will be “whether the countries who receive our dollars and our protection also have our interests at heart,” Trump said.

Without fail, President Trump defended his tariff policy. We will not allow our workers to be victimised, our companies to be cheated, and our wealth to be plundered and transferred,” Trump said in New York. He focused his wrath on China but reflecting on his trade policy he warned that “this is just the beginning.”

The US President also took issue with OPEC’s coordination to raise international oil prices.

Trump also defended US unilateral action against Iran, that is, hours after Europe announced the development of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) intended to help Iran circumvent US sanctions.

Hours later, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the EU initiative whose explicit objective is to bypass U.S. sanctions. “This is one of the most counterproductive measures imaginable for regional global peace and security,” Pompeo said, accusing the EU of helping Iran to sponsor terrorism.

In defence of multilateralism

There was a counter-narrative from Europe.

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was careful not to challenge President Trump directly. However, he noted that there was a rise in populism within nations and multilateralism is in retreat. “Democratic principles are under siege,” Guterres said.

He pointed towards humanity’s “existential threats,” defending the Paris Agreement and urged states to defend fragile trust in the international order.

His words were implicit. But, the counternarrative to Washington became explicit when French President Emmanuel Macron went to the podium.

President Macron urged leaders to reject “the law of the most powerful,” gaining applause, warning that “nationalism always leads to defeat.”

Macron advocated for Iranian oil exports and condemned US unilateral actions against Iran.

Taking a further step of defiance, Macron said that future (EU) trade deals would be conditional on upholding the Paris Agreement, from which the US withdrew.

Iran’s President Rouhani also pleaded for a return to multilateralism, defending the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Addressing President Trump, Rouhani argued that his wrath is an expression of vanity and disregard for multilateralism.

“We invite you to come back to the negotiating table you left. If you dislike the JCPOA because it is the legacy of your domestic political rivals, then we invite you to come back to the Security Council resolution,” Rouhani said.

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