Biden and Macron ready to talk Ukraine and trade from state visit

WASHINGTON (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron is heading to Washington for the first state visit of President Joe Biden — a revival of diplomatic pageantry that had been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Biden-Macron relationship got off to a rocky start. 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 a contract for France to sell submarines diesel-powered.

But the relationship reversed, with Macron becoming one of Biden’s most advanced European allies in the Western response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This week’s visit – it will include Oval Office talks, a lavish dinner, a press conference and more – comes at a critical time for both leaders.

The leaders have a long agenda for their Thursday meeting at the White House, including Iran’s nuclear program, China’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific and growing concerns about security and stability in the Sahel region of Africa, according to US and French officials. But Russia’s war in Ukraine will be the focus of their Oval Office meeting, as Biden and Macron work to maintain economic and military support for Kyiv as it attempts to fend off Russian forces.

In Washington, Republicans are poised to take control of the House, where GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday, following a meeting with Biden and his fellow congressional leaders, again vowed that the Republicans would not write a « blank check » for Ukraine. Across the Atlantic, Macron’s efforts to keep Europe together will be tested by the rising costs of supporting Ukraine during the nine-month war and as Europe struggles with rising oil prices. energy that threatens to derail post-pandemic economic recovery.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Monday described Macron as the « dynamic leader » of America’s oldest ally while explaining Biden’s decision to honor the French president with the first state visit of his presidency.

The American tradition of honoring foreign heads of state dates back to Ulysses S. Grant, who hosted King David Kalakaua of the Kingdom of Hawaii for a 20-plus-course dinner at the White House, but the tradition has since been suspended. 2019 due to COVID -19 concerns.

« If you look at what’s happening in Ukraine, look at what’s happening in the Indo-Pacific and the tensions with China, France is really at the center of all of those things, » Kirby said. « And so the president felt that was exactly the right and most appropriate country to start state visits. »

Macron was also Republican Donald Trump’s choice as the first foreign leader to be honored with a state visit during his tenure. The 2018 state visit included a getaway by the two leaders to Mount Vernon, the Virginia estate of George Washington, founding president of the United States.

French government spokesman Olivier Veran said Tuesday that Macron’s second state visit was « a strong symbol of the partnership between France and the United States. » It shows « very strong ties » between the countries and comes at a time when the world is facing major international issues, including the war in Ukraine, food security, climate and energy, he said. declared.

Veran added that it was necessary to « resynchronize » the agendas of the European Union and the United States to deal with the crises, in particular on energy and rising prices.

Macron was due to arrive in Washington on Tuesday evening ahead of 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. Biden administration on nuclear power.

On Thursday, Macron will have his private meeting with Biden followed by a joint press conference and visits to the State Department and the Capitol before Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron, are celebrated at the state dinner. Grammy-winning Jon Batiste will provide entertainment. The White House has been preparing for Macron’s arrival for days, setting up a large tent for the festivities on the South Lawn and decorating lampposts lining the White House complex with French flags.

Macron will travel to New Orleans on Friday, where he is due to announce plans to expand programming to support French-language instruction in American schools, French officials say.

For all of this, there are still areas of tension in the US-France relationship.

Biden has avoided accepting Macron’s calls for Ukraine to resume peace talks with Russia, something Biden has repeatedly said is a decision in the hands of Ukraine’s leaders alone.

The differences French leaders and other European Union leaders have raised over Biden’s Cut Inflation Act, sweeping legislation passed in August that includes historic spending on climate and energy initiatives , are perhaps more pressing. Macron and other leaders have been angered by a provision in the bill that gives tax credits to consumers who buy electric vehicles made in North America.

The French president, in arguing against the subsidies, will stress that it is crucial that « Europe, like the United States, comes out stronger… not weaker » as the world emerges from the tumult of the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to a senior French government official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity to preview the private interviews.

Macron said earlier this month that the subsidies could upset the « level playing field » on trade with the EU and called some aspects of Biden’s legislation « unfriendly ».

The White House, meanwhile, 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 make it clear to the French that the legislation will also create new opportunities for French businesses and others in Europe, according to a senior Biden administration official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity to preview the talks.

Macron’s visit comes about 14 months after the relationship came to a head after the United States announced its agreement to sell nuclear submarines to Australia.

After the announcement of the agreement, negotiated in secret, France briefly recalled its ambassador to Washington. Weeks later, Macron met Biden in Rome ahead of the Group of 20 summit, where the US president sought to smooth things over by acknowledging that his administration had been « clumsy » in the way it handled the issue.

Macron’s visit with Harris to NASA Headquarters on Wednesday will provide the two countries with an opportunity to highlight their cooperation in space.

France in June signed the Artemis Accords, a space cooperation plan supporting NASA’s plans to return humans to the Moon by 2024 and launch a historic human mission to Mars.

The same month, the United States joined a French initiative aimed at developing new tools for adapting to climate change, the Space for Climate Observatory.


Corbet brought back from Paris. Associated Press writers Colleen Long and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed reporting.

Aamer Madhani and Sylvie Corbet, The Associated Press


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