French President Emmanuel Macron is heading to Washington for the first state visit of Joe Biden’s presidency – reviving the diplomatic contest that was put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The beginning of the relationship between Biden and Macron was off and on. Macron briefly recalled the French ambassador to the United States last year after the White House announced a deal to sell nuclear submarines to Australia, undermining France’s contract to sell diesel submarines and sailors.
But the relationship changed with the emergence of Macron as one of the most eager European allies for Biden in the Western response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This week’s visit — which will include Oval Office talks, an impressive dinner, press conference and more — comes at a critical time for both leaders.
US and French officials said the leaders had a long agenda for their Thursday meeting at the White House, including Iran’s nuclear program, China’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region, and growing concerns about security and stability in Africa’s Sahel region. But at the forefront of the Oval Office meeting will be Russia’s war in Ukraine, as Biden and Macron scramble to maintain economic and military support for Kiev as it tries to fend off Russian forces.
In Washington, Republicans are poised to take control of the House of Representatives, where GOP leader Kevin McCarthy vowed on Tuesday after meeting again with Biden and fellow congressional leaders that Republicans would not write a “blank check” to Ukraine. Across the Atlantic, Macron’s efforts to hold Europe together will be tested by the rising costs of supporting Ukraine during the nine-month war, and as Europe grapples with soaring energy prices that threaten to derail the post-pandemic economic recovery.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Monday called Macron a “dynamic leader” by America’s oldest ally, while explaining Biden’s decision to honor the French leader with the first state visit of his presidency.
The tradition of the United States honoring foreign heads of state goes back to Ulysses S. Grant, who hosted King David Kalākaua of the Kingdom of Hawaii for a dinner in the White House of more than 20 dishes, but this tradition has been suspended since 2019 due to the Corona virus. – 19 fears.
“If you look at what’s happening in Ukraine, if you look at what’s happening in the Indo-Pacific and the tensions with China, France is really at the center of all of this,” Kirby said. So the president felt that this was exactly the right country to start state visits. »
Macron was also the choice of Republican Donald Trump as the first foreign leader to be honored with a state visit during his tenure. The 2018 state visit included a short trip the two leaders made to Mount Vernon, the estate of George Washington, the founding president of the United States.
French government spokesman Olivier Ferrand said on Tuesday that Macron’s second state visit is “a strong symbol of the partnership between France and the United States.” He said it demonstrated the “very strong bond” between the two countries and comes at a time when the world was grappling with important international issues, including the war in Ukraine, food security, climate and energy.
Ferran added that there is a need to “re-synchronize” the programs of the European Union and the United States to deal with crises, especially with regard to the rise in energy prices and prices.
Macron was scheduled to arrive in Washington on Tuesday night before a busy day of meetings and appearances in and around Washington on Wednesday — including a visit to NASA headquarters with Vice President Kamala Harris and talks with government officials and the Biden administration on nuclear power.
On Thursday, Macron will hold his private meeting with Biden, followed by a joint press conference and visits to the State Department and the Capitol building, before honoring Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron at a state dinner. Grammy award winning Jean-Baptiste provides entertainment. The White House has been preparing for Macron’s arrival for days, setting up a large tent for ceremonies on the South Lawn and decorating the lampposts adjacent to the White House complex with French flags.
Macron will travel to New Orleans on Friday, where he will announce plans to expand support programs for teaching French in American schools, according to French officials.
However, there are still areas of tension in US-French relations.
Biden has avoided accepting Macron’s calls for Ukraine to resume peace talks with Russia, something Biden has repeatedly said is up to Ukrainian leaders alone to decide.
Perhaps most pressing are the disagreements that French and other European leaders have raised over Biden’s inflation-reducing bill, which passed in August, and which includes historic spending on climate and energy initiatives. Macron and other leaders have been angered by a provision in the bill that provides tax breaks for consumers who buy electric cars made in North America.
In arguing against subsidies, the French president will stress that it is crucial that “Europe, like the United States, emerge stronger…not weaker” as the world emerges from the turmoil of the pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, according to a senior French government official who briefed reporters on the matter. that. Preview private conversations on condition of anonymity.
Macron said earlier this month that the support could upset the “level playing field” on trade with the European Union and described aspects of Biden’s legislation as “unfriendly”.
Meanwhile, the White House plans to counter that the legislation goes a long way to helping the United States respond to global efforts to curb climate change. The president and his aides will also seek to convince the French that the legislation will also create new opportunities for French and other companies in Europe, according to a senior Biden administration official who briefed reporters under the cover of anonymity to preview the talks.
Macron’s visit comes about 14 months after the relationship hit rock bottom, after the United States announced its agreement to sell nuclear submarines to Australia.
After announcing the agreement in secret, France briefly recalls its ambassador to Washington. Weeks later, Macron met Biden in Rome ahead of the G20 summit, where the US president sought to smooth things over by admitting that his administration had been “clumsy” in how it handled the issue.
Macron’s visit with Harris to NASA headquarters on Wednesday will be an opportunity for the two countries to highlight their cooperation in space.
In June, France signed the Artemis Accords, a space cooperation program that supports NASA’s plans to return humans to the Moon by 2024 and launch a historic human mission to Mars.
In the same month, the United States joined a French initiative aimed at developing new tools for adaptation to climate change, the Space for Climate Observatory.
Courbet returned from Paris. Associated Press writers Coleen Long and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed reporting.