Obama, Hollande pen op-ed ahead of visit

President Obama and French President François Hollande penned a joint op-ed on Monday touting how the relationship between their two countries had “transformed” over the past decade, drawing an implicit contrast with the strained diplomatic relationship between former presidents George W. Bush and Jacques Chirac.

“A decade ago, few would have imagined our two countries working so closely together in so many ways. But in recent years our alliance has transformed,” the presidents wrote in an essay that appeared in the Washington Post and Le Monde.

The op-ed goes on to call their relationship a “model for international cooperation” and tout joint diplomatic and military efforts on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Syria’s chemical weapons program, and fighting terror in Africa.

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The presidents herald a bilateral economic relationship, noting that the U.S. is the largest non-E.U. consumer of French goods, and call for joint efforts to combat climate change.

Obama and Hollande also touted ongoing trade negotiations — a political sticking point for the American president. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has signaled that he will not move forward on legislation to grant Obama authority to conduct fast-track trade negotiations, and European partners are wary of negotiating a treaty that could then be amended by the U.S. Congress.

“The trade and investment partnership that we are pursuing between the European Union and the United States is a major opportunity to build on millions of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic already supported by U.S.-E.U. trade,” the presidents write. “Such an agreement would result in more trade, more jobs and more export opportunities, including for small businesses in both of our countries. It would also build a lasting foundation for our efforts to promote growth and the global economic recovery.”

The op-ed comes ahead of Hollande’s official state visit. On Monday, the pair will travel together to Charlottesville, Va., to tour Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. On Tuesday, they’ll hold a joint press conference at the White House and then attend a state dinner.

The diplomatic aspects of the trip have been somewhat overshadowed, however, by Hollande’s recent split from French first lady Valerie Trierweiler. The break came amid tabloid reports Hollande was having an affair with actress Julie Gayet.