Macron in Washington to seal reconciliation with Biden
Steph Deschamps / November 30, 2022
Emmanuel Macron begins a three-day state visit to the United States on Wednesday, which is expected to dramatically seal the Franco-American reconciliation after a serious diplomatic crisis between the two close allies, despite some turmoil over US trade protectionism.
The French president and his wife, Brigitte Macron, who arrived in Washington on Tuesday night, were invited by Joe and Jill Biden to a restaurant in the federal capital for a private dinner, a prelude to Thursday's reception in grand style at the White House.
"USA! A moment to celebrate the friendship between our two countries. A moment to move forward together in a time of great challenges," Macron tweeted in English shortly after his arrival.
Like his Republican predecessor Donald Trump in 2018, the Democratic president chose his French counterpart for the first state visit of his term.
"This is about honoring our oldest ally," a spokesman for the U.S. executive branch, John Kirby, told French journalists.
"France is literally one of the threads from which our nation is woven," he added, multiplying superlatives for the "leadership," "experience" and "wisdom" of Emmanuel Macron, who has, in particular, in the eyes of the U.S. government, the advantage of "longevity" in office compared to a German chancellor or a British prime minister who arrived more recently in power.
What a change in mood since that big tantrum in Paris a little over a year ago!
In September 2021, the United States announced a new alliance, AUKUS, with Australia and the United Kingdom, arousing the ire of France, which saw itself left out of the American strategy for the key Asia-Pacific region and, in the process, lost a mega-contract to sell submarines to Canberra.
Since then, Washington has made several gestures to appease its ally.
"The level of cooperation, the depth of it, is quite remarkable when you think about the state of the relationship a year or so ago," said John Kirby. "Over the past year, France has been literally at the heart of every national security issue that matters to Americans and to our allies," he insisted, referring to a partnership that is "resolutely forward-looking."
Wednesday's event will focus on the themes of the future. Emmanuel Macron is scheduled to hold a series of talks on space cooperation with Vice President Kamala Harris and in the presence of French astronauts Thomas Pesquet and Sophie Adenot, on biodiversity and climate change with U.S. lawmakers, and on civil nuclear energy with industry stakeholders.
The President will also address the French community after the traditional ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
The intimate dinner between the two Presidential couples could provide an opportunity to informally discuss the main topics on the menu for Thursday's meeting in the Oval Office.
Before the visit, France tried to raise the pressure on the massive plan to support the energy transition wanted by Joe Biden, or Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which grants generous subsidies to electric vehicles, batteries or renewable energy on condition that they are "made in America".
Judging this law "protectionist", Paris said it hoped to obtain "exemptions" for certain European industries.
But the White House, which is very attached to this key piece of the Biden presidency's record, has no intention of announcing exemptions in the immediate future, and even less of unraveling its law -- which it assures us will ultimately also benefit the European economy.
The Elysée is therefore putting more emphasis on the other part of its parade against the IRA: the promotion, among other Europeans, of the adoption of a comparable trade weapon, a "Buy European Act" which would also give priority to products manufactured on the Old Continent.
The two leaders should also display a message of unity on Ukraine, promising to continue to support Kiev as much as necessary while explaining that negotiations with Moscow can only take place when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky deems it appropriate.
Meanwhile, John Kirby has given satisfaction to Emmanuel Macron's willingness, sometimes controversial, to maintain dialogue with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
"We think it's a good thing," "we welcome President Macron's ability" to maintain "communication with President Putin," the U.S. spokesman assured.