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World

President Trump Attends Meeting Of G-7 Leaders In Italy

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Trump is nearing the end of his first foreign trip as president. And aides say he has been listening and evolving. Trump is in Sicily right now attending a meeting of G-7 leaders. NPR's Tamara Keith is traveling with the president.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Coming in, there was a deep divide among the G-7 leaders. Six of them are fully committed to the Paris climate accord, a global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And then there's President Trump. As a candidate, he promised to cancel it and called it one-sided, another bad deal agreed to by President Obama. So there was a lot to talk about and, for the other six leaders, significant persuading to do.

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PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: We had a very good discussion about the importance of this issue of climate change.

KEITH: British Prime Minister Theresa May held a press conference at the end of the first day's meetings.

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MAY: There was no doubt around the table about how important this particular issue on climate change is, and we were all very clear about that and about the role the Paris agreement plays in that.

KEITH: For these leaders, it's a critical moment. President Trump has said he will decide whether to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord when he returns from his trip. Gary Cohn, Trump's top economic adviser, was in the meeting and briefed reporters.

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GARY COHN: He learned how important it is for the United States to show leadership. Many of the European leaders talked about these global agreements. Yeah, we could - yes, we can have a hundred-plus nations signed up to agreement. But without the United States, it's sort of missing a big gap when you take the biggest economy out.

KEITH: Cohn says Trump digested that argument, that it was a meaningful moment to him. While yesterday Trump went to a NATO alliance gathering, publicly lecturing other countries about doing their fair share, here at the G-7, behind closed doors, Cohn says Trump has been hanging back more and listening to the other leaders share their experiences and views on issues like trade and climate change. When it comes to climate, Cohn says Trump's views might be changing.

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COHN: I think his views are evolving. And he came here to learn, and he came here to get smarter. And he came here to hear people's, world leaders' views.

KEITH: National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster then chimed in.

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H R MCMASTER: He's certain to base his decision on what he thinks is best for the American people.

COHN: I agree with that. I agree with that.

MCMASTER: And so that's - and so while his views are evolving, you know, his basis for his decision has remained unchanged.

COHN: General is completely right. His basis for decision ultimately is going to be what's best for the United States.

KEITH: It's hard to know precisely what the president's views are on this and other matters because he hasn't held a press conference for the entire trip, has largely avoided answering questions and has cut way back on Twitter. He's given speeches. But on more than one occasion, aides have had to clarify his positions on everything from human rights to Article 5 of the NATO charter because his prepared remarks left ambiguity.

On climate change, Trump's position and how, if at all, he has evolved won't truly be known until he acts on the Paris climate accord. Already his administration has taken actions that will make it difficult for the U.S. to reach its carbon reduction commitments. Tamara Keith, NPR News, Sicily. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.