Visit to Washington: what Macron will say to Biden

Dmet with great fanfare. US President Joe Biden received his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on November 29 in Washington. This will be Emmanuel Macron’s second state visit to the United States, but it should generate less noise than the one with Donald Trump in 2018. The French president hopes to use this visit to make his diplomatic case and address the war in Ukraine. Against American protectionism.

Americans will do anything to prevent the slightest friction or slightly fresh statement from tarnishing Joe Biden’s first state visit. The French president will be entitled to all the pomp and all the honors of such a reception on Thursday in the famous Oval Office, with cannon shots, gala dinners and fireside chats.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Monday praised the “dynamic” French president, whose nuclear-armed country is at the “center” of global issues such as the war in Ukraine or China’s rise. Joe Biden “really felt it was the most appropriate country” to make his first post-inauguration state visit, the adviser concluded.

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In 2018, Donald Trump invited his young colleague to a highly publicized meeting. It will be less so: Emmanuel Macron is no longer a novelty, and the eight-year-old Democrat is less admired than the Republican billionaire. Paris is not enjoying it ahead of a trip that will begin in Washington on Tuesday night and then take the French president to New Orleans.

This is “an honor to France and not to any other European country”, we applaud France. Everything will be done to resolve the recent Franco-American crisis, with solemn declarations and more intimate exchanges involving the spouses of the two presidents, Jill Biden and Brigitte Macron.

It was a bad start between Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron: in September 2021, Washington’s announcement of the AUKUS alliance with Australia and Great Britain caused the anger of Paris, which was deprived of the mega contract of submariners with Canberra. But at the same time, he was annoyed at being left out in the main region, the “Indo-Pacific”.

This visit “looks like the tail of comet AUKUS” and the approach that has started since then, Célia Belin, a visiting researcher at the Brookings Institution in Washington, told AFP. According to him, the Americans are interested in maintaining close contact with this ally, which defends the “strategic autonomy” of Europe. “The French are not always easy to manage, but when the French and the Americans agree, it makes a lot of progress. »

“Unsuitable Allies”

In addition to the protocol, Elysee therefore hopes for a “demanding” dialogue. “We are not aligned allies,” the president’s adviser notes.

Ukraine first. Since the Russian invasion, Emmanuel Macron has been playing a bit of music that has long irritated his American partner: full support for Kiev, but also dialogue with Moscow so that the war ends “around the negotiating table” when the Ukrainians decide.

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The French head of state continues this diplomatic “simultaneous” reconciliation by organizing a conference in support of Ukraine’s civil resistance in Paris on December 13, and also promises to speak again “in the coming days.” , to Vladimir Putin. But Washington’s chief of staff, General Mark Milley, is moving closer to that position as he notes a possible window of opportunity for negotiations.

But Emmanuel Macron also wants a “resynchronization” of the economic response to the crisis created by the conflict on both sides of the Atlantic, and more broadly in terms of the environmental transition and competition with China.

In this final moment, crucial for Joe Biden, who sees competition with Beijing as a key foreign policy axis, a senior White House official acknowledged that the positions of the Americans and the Europeans were not “the same,” but that they all shared one. The desire to “play a joint account in response to China”.

The main sticking point is expected to be commercial: Paris is seeking a way out of the “Inflation Reduction Act” (IRA), which calls for massive investment in the energy transition – accompanied by generous subsidies for electric vehicles, batteries and renewable energy generation. In the United States of America.

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French Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne said that “we will not sit idly” in front of this investment plan, which is considered protectionist. The White House wants to calm things down: “We are fully prepared to have this conversation and find a way to address these concerns,” said John Kirby.

If President Macron hopes to secure “exemptions” for several European industries, he knows that Joe Biden is unlikely to re-architect this crucial plan for his balance sheet. So the idea is to learn more and advocate a similar policy with the Europeans.

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