French President Emanuel Macron has become the first foreign leader of the Donald Trump Presidency to be honored with a state visit.
But behind the pomp and ceremony, there are deep divisions between the two leaders on major issues. Top of the agenda for France will be trying to get the US to stay in the Iran nuclear deal, keep troops in Syria, lessen trade tensions and work closely with his European allies.
CGTN’s White House correspondent Nathan King explains the significance of the visit.
Of all the world leaders President Macron is known to have one of the closest relationships with U.S. President Trump. Trump was feted in Paris last July—guest of honor at the Bastille day military parade, a sunset dinner at the Eiffel tower. The French President has tried to bond with Trump while others in Europe have kept their distance. But what has President Macron got out of his relationship? Not very much.
Brigitte and I are thrilled and honored to be in Washington DC.
This State visit is very important for our people. pic.twitter.com/QDBhTzedB0
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) April 23, 2018
The U.S. President unilaterally withdrew from the Paris Climate agreement—a snub to French diplomacy and France’s commitment to the environment. And, as this visit gets underway, the U.S. is just three weeks away from potentially pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal—inked with France other European powers plus China and Russia. This agreement limited Iran’s nuclear activity and avoided a potential military clash.
For months U.S. diplomats have been pushing European allies to agree to a side agreement on Iran, which would criticize Iran’s behavior in the Middle East and address Tehran’s ballistic missile program and other issues not covered by the nuclear deal. But there is no guarantee the U.S. president would even accept that. The White House said: ‘don’t expect a breakthrough during this trip.’
On Syria, France joined the U.S. and UK in the recent strikes against Syria in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack. But Trump said he wants to pull U.S. troops out of Syria now that ISIL is largely defeated. France wants the U.S. to stay and help “rebuild” Syria in a bid to counter Russian and Iranian influence. The U.S. President is not keen.
On trade, the U.S. has exempted, temporarily, the European Union from steel and aluminum tariffs, but the threat of U.S. tariffs has created a hostile environment in Europe. Meanwhile, the U.S. wants European help in pressuring China over market access and technology transfers.
Macron also has domestic problems, too. His popularity is plummeting in a France wracked by strikes and resistance to unpopular reforms—appearing too close to an unpopular U.S. president without getting anything in return could damage him further.
Emmanuel Macron’s state visit here this week will be followed by a visit by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor. She shares many of President Macron’s concerns over U.S. policies but has a frostier relationship with the U.S. President than Macron does. This week may be starting with an expression of warmth and friendship, but it could easily end with Washington and key European allies further divided.