New York, Washington The French President Emmanuel Macron will be announced on Thursday with full honors by the US President Joe Biden received at the White House. Musician and Grammy winner Jon Batiste will provide entertainment at the multi-course dinner.
What may sound like unimportant details are important signs in the world of diplomacy: Macron has been the first guest of state to receive such an honor since 2021. That shows how important France is for Washington.
The French President visited the headquarters of the US space agency Nasa in Washington on Wednesday to kick off the trip together with US Vice President Kamala Harris. Harris acknowledged France as an “essential partner” at the meeting United States. The two emphasized the cooperation between the two countries in space travel. Macron said space is a new site of conflict and there are “crazy actors” there too.
After Brexit and the chaotic change of government in Great Britain and in view of the rather lukewarm relationship with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), Macron is also the most important partner of the USA in Europe because of the military strength of the nuclear power France.
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National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Monday called Macron the “dynamic leader” of America’s oldest ally. “If you look at what’s going on in the Ukraine what’s happening and in the Indo-Pacific and the tensions with China, France is really at the center of it all,” Kirby said. “Therefore, the President felt that this is exactly the right and most appropriate country to start state visits again,” he said.
The relationship between Macron and Biden got off to a rocky start. It was only 14 months ago that Macron even withdrew his ambassador in Washington at short notice. The reason was that the US government had announced without warning a military technology agreement with Great Britain and Australia and the supply of nuclear submarines to Australia, which thwarted the sale of French diesel submarines. But that was before the Ukraine war and, from Paris’ point of view, has long since ceased to be an issue.
And so the Élysée Palace emphasized that the reception was a sign of the “excellent relations” between France and the USA. Macron wanted to work for “enhanced relations” between Washington and Europe, which would have to be “adapted to the new international realities”.
republican could weaken Biden’s Ukraine support
Among other things, it is about the EU taking on more responsibility for its security. In view of the Russian war against Ukraine and challenges such as climate change, a “new synchronization of European and American agendas” is needed.
The Macron couple arrived on Tuesday evening and will have several appointments on Wednesday, including with Vice President Kamala Harris. On Thursday, the French President will spend most of the day with the US President. According to the US government, the meeting will deal not only with the war in Ukraine, but also with Iran’s nuclear program, China’s role in the Pacific and stability in the African Sahel.
In Ukraine in particular, Biden is dependent on his allies. When soon in the US House of Representatives republican take over the majority, it could become more difficult for Biden to push through further aid packages in the billions. Future Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has already announced that his party will “no blank cheques” will sign for Ukraine.
Unlike Macron, Biden has not yet asked Kyiv to hold peace talks Russia to resume. According to the Americans, this should be decided by the Ukrainian government alone. Biden is said to find the regular phone calls between Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin helpful. But the US President is probably rather skeptical about the idea put forward by France that China should act as a mediator in the Ukraine war.
Macron wants to address American e-car subsidies on behalf of Europe
One point of contention will be the subsidy policy of the USA. Above all, the tax incentives for electric cars manufactured in the USA are met with criticism from Europeans. The Élysée Palace warned of the “risk of a discrepancy” between the US and EU economic powerhouses. The talks will also deal with the legislative package called the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
“We wish that we can organize the competition between the US and the EU not only in a loyal way, but also in a strategic way,” said a senior French adviser ahead of the trip. In the past few weeks, the French President had threatened a European response to the legislative package and had discussed a “Buy European Act”.
More Handelsblatt articles on the economic dispute between the USA and the EU
With a view to the Inflation Reduction Act, Macron sees himself on his journey on behalf of all of Europe. Those around him said that Macron would start a dialogue with Biden on the subject and “draw the conclusions for us Europeans from this discussion”. It must be prevented that investments are withdrawn from the EU as a result of US subsidies and that Europeans are disadvantaged on the markets.
High-ranking officials in the US government, on the other hand, argue that despite the subsidies, the legislative package offers many opportunities for European companies when it comes to wind power and other renewable energies. One is in “constructive talks” about it, it said in Washington.
Macron will be accompanied by several members of his government, including Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire. He is also bringing a top-class business delegation to Washington: Bernard Arnault, head of the luxury goods group LVMHis there, as is Patrick Pouyanné, head of the energy giant Total Energies, and a number of tech entrepreneurs. From the Élysée Palace it was said that Macron also wanted to work to expand cooperation between France and the USA in space and the nuclear industry.