June 6 (UPI) -- President Trump acted in the people's best interest with his decision on the Paris climate treaty and is not an isolationist, his secretary of state said.
President Donald Trump sparked international critiques with a decision to end the U.S. role in the Paris climate treaty, which would require about three years for a full withdrawal from the international accord. The president said he'd consider some sort of renegotiated role and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson defended the move as a decision that served the interests of the American people.
"Having said that, as he made that decision, I think he made clear that he welcomes the opportunity to talk about a subsequent agreement," Tillerson said at a press conference on Monday.
Speaking alongside New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English and Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee, the U.S. secretary of state said his country's reduction in greenhouse gas emissions were "possibly unparalleled" and already at levels last seen in the 1990s.
Trump's decision was criticized at home and abroad as handing leadership over to the rival Chinese economy and to Europe, which has clear climate benchmarks outside the Paris climate treaty. Nevertheless, Tillerson said much of the U.S. gains on the climate front came from non-treaty initiatives.
"So I don't think anyone should interpret that the U.S. has somehow stepped away from these issues or is seeking to isolate itself," he said.
Federal data show U.S. energy-related emissions are above levels from 1990, but have declined for six of the last 10 years.
For New Zealand, like the United States, oil has a considerable role in the nation's economy and is the fourth-largest export commodity for the country, bringing in around $700 million per year in royalties and taxes.
On climate issues, an annual review of the New Zealand energy sector from the International Energy Agency described the country as a "success story" for its ability to advance on low-carbon options like hydro-electric power and geothermal energy, all without government subsidies.
Addressing the U.S. decision on the international treaty, the New Zealand prime minister said he discussed with Tillerson "our disagreement with the administration's decision over withdrawing from the Paris agreement."