Five things to watch for during Macron’s state visit
President Biden will host French President Emmanuel Macron this week for the administration’s first official state visit after a lengthy hiatus due to the pandemic.
Biden is hosting Macron in a sign of the importance of the U.S-France relationship at a time when cooperation on the war in Ukraine, climate change and other global priorities are top of mind, administration officials said.
Here are five things to watch.
Return of pomp and circumstance
American and French flags are in place on the Old Executive Office Building on the White House campus Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, in Washington, in advance of the State Visit by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Thursday will be the first time Biden has hosted an official state visit for a foreign leader since taking office, the latest sign of a return to normal proceedings at the White House as concerns about the coronavirus pandemic fade.
An official state visit is more formal than a standard bilateral meeting at the White House, as it includes a dinner with lawmakers and other invited guests, as well as activities with the spouses of each foreign leader.
The Eisenhower Executive Office Building was adorned Monday with French and U.S. flags, as were the light posts along Pennsylvania Avenue. Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron, will stay at the Blair House near the White House during their time in the capital.
Macron and his wife will arrive at the White House on Thursday morning for an official arrival ceremony, followed by a bilateral meeting between the two presidents. Biden and Macron will also hold a joint press conference.
Thursday will be capped off by a State Dinner, which typically includes live performances and distinguished guests. Jon Batiste, a Grammy Award winner and New Orleans native, will perform at Thursday night’s dinner. The White House has been mum about other potential guests.
Strategizing on Ukraine
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, in Washington.
France and the U.S. have been among the leaders of a coalition of nations seeking to bolster and sustain support for Ukraine as it fends off Russia’s invasion, and that partnership is only expected to become more important as winter sets in across Europe.
“When you take a look at what he’s hitting, it’s almost all civilian infrastructure. And it’s largely…it’s energy, it’s water, it’s the kind of resources that people need as they get ready to brace for what will no doubt be a cold winter,” national security spokesman John Kirby said on Monday.
Kirby added that Macron has been a “dynamic leader inside the G7” on issues like Ukraine, as well as tensions with China.
Biden and Macron were together earlier this month for the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Bali, where Russia’s war on Ukraine was a main topic of conversation. Leaders at the summit issued a declaration to demand that Russia withdraws from Ukraine.
The G-20 leaders reiterated that they condemn the war in Ukraine and discussed that it has hurt the global economy by increasing inflation, disrupting supply chains, and heightening energy and food insecurity, among other issues.
Harris builds on France visit
French President Emmanuel Macron, right, welcomes Vice President Kamala Harris at the Elysee Palace, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021 in Paris.
Vice President Harris traveled to Paris in November 2021, which was largely seen at the time as an effort by the U.S. to restore its relationship with France after the U.S. struck a submarine deal in September 2021 with the United Kingdom and Australia, sidelining a deal France had formed with Australia.
France became outraged as a result and canceled a planned gala in Washington, D.C., and temporarily recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia.
On Wednesday, Macron and Harris will visit NASA headquarters, which is a follow up to when she and Macron committed to a whole-of-government space dialogue during their meeting last year.
A French official on Monday cited Harris’s 2021 visit to Paris as a significant symbol of the importance of laying the groundwork for cooperation between France and the U.S. on space policy.
The trip to NASA is intended to showcase the U.S. and France’s “deepening collaboration on space in support of Earth, climate, and space science and space exploration,” according to a White House official. Harris and Macron are expected to discuss existing cooperation in space science, space exploration and using data collected from space to fight climate change.
It is also Macron’s first stop in Washington after arriving on Tuesday evening.
“The U.S. has chosen France, after Japan, as a second partner to have horizontal, global, space dialogue covering all aspects of space policies, in particular the observation of earth and the observation of the atmosphere, directly linked to the fight against climate change,” a French official told reporters on Monday.
Does Trump come up?
U.S. President Joe Biden, left, speaks with French President Emmanuel Macron during arrivals for the G7 meeting at the Carbis Bay Hotel in Carbis Bay, St. Ives, Cornwall, England, Friday, June 11, 2021.
Biden and Macron were together at the G-20 summit in Bali earlier this month when Trump announced his White House bid. Reporters asked Biden and Macron if they had a reaction to Trump’s news and the two looked at each other briefly, and each cracked a slight smirk.
“Not really,” Biden said.
Trump has loomed over Biden’s foreign policy efforts, and his relationship with Macron in particular. Biden frequently tells the story of a foreign leader, believed to be Macron, who when Biden said “America is back” at his first Group of Seven (G-7) Summit asked, “For how long?”
There is also the question of whether Biden himself plans to run again in 2024. While he and his top aides say he intends to, foreign leaders like Macron are likely eager to find out for sure who they might be dealing with from the U.S. in two years.
Trump and Macron had a friendly relationship at the beginning of the Trump administration, with some even characterizing it at the time as a “bromance.” Trump also hosted Macron for a state visit during his term. But, the relationship soon spoiled over, with Trump pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and Trump tweeting that he was insulted that Macron would suggest creating a European army.
Friction over climate talks
French President Emmanuel Macron with his wife Brigitte Macron arrive at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, for an official state visit.
The climate provisions inside one of Biden’s top legislative accomplishments, the Inflation Reduction Act, is a point of contention with France and other parts of Europe.
Europe argues that the electric vehicle credits in the bill could deal a blow to Europe because it protects and supports only U.S. manufacturing, especially at a time of high energy prices from the war in Ukraine. Kirby said on Monday that the issue will most likely come up during the meeting with Macron.
“I think we look forward to having that discussion with our French counterparts,” Kirby said, adding that the administration has tried to better understand the concerns of Europe about the credits.
A French official on Monday told reporters that they want a synchronized partnership and equal footing when it comes to technology, noting that France and Germany are top investors in U.S. cars and parts manufacturing.
Kirby said later on Monday that the administration wants to work through the concerns that France has.
“It’s not a zero-sum game. I mean, clean energy — that’s a tide that raises all boats, the more we can transition to a clean energy economy around the world. And there’s plenty of opportunity for everybody in that,” he said.
Additionally, Macron and Harris will have a climate-focused meeting this week. While they are visiting NASA on Wednesday, they will attend a working lunch on climate and biodiversity issues with members of Congress and key stakeholders on climate.
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