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Alexis Guilleux with AFP
07:36, November 29, 2022modified to

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07:47, November 29, 2022

Emmanuel Macron is going to Washington on Tuesday for his second state visit, an “honor” which he hopes to take advantage of to push his diplomatic plea on the war in Ukraine and raise his voice against American protectionism. The Americans will do everything to prevent the slightest friction or a little fresh statement from tarnishing the first state visit organized by Joe Biden.

Cannon shots, gala dinner, fireside chat…

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The French president will be entitled Thursday to all the pomp and all the honors of such a reception, with cannon shots, gala dinner and fireside chat in the famous Oval Office. John Kirby, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, on Monday praised this “dynamic” French president whose country, a nuclear power, is “at the center” of all global issues, be it the war in Ukraine or the rise of China.

Joe Biden “felt that it was really the most relevant country” to organize the first state visit since his inauguration, concluded the adviser.

In 2018, Donald Trump invited his young counterpart for a highly publicized meeting. This one will be less so: Emmanuel Macron is no longer a novelty, and the octogenarian Democrat fascinates less than the Republican billionaire.

But Paris is not sulking its pleasure, before a trip which will begin Tuesday evening in Washington, and will then take the French president to New Orleans. It is “an honor that is done to France rather than to any other European country”, we welcome, on the French side. Everything will be done to settle a recent Franco-American crisis, with solemn declarations and more intimate exchanges also involving the wives of the two presidents, Jill Biden and Brigitte Macron.

Between Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron, it got off to a bad start: in September 2021, Washington’s announcement of the AUKUS alliance with Australia and the United Kingdom aroused the ire of Paris, deprived of a mega-contract of sub -sailors with Canberra. But also upset to have been kept away in a key region, “the Indo-Pacific”.

This visit, “is a bit like the comet tail of AUKUS” and the rapprochement launched since, explains Célia Belin, guest researcher at the Brookings Institution in Washington. According to her, the Americans have an interest in keeping a close link with this ally which advocates the “strategic autonomy” of Europe. “The French are not always easy to manage, but when the French and Americans come to an agreement, it makes a lot of progress.”

“Not Allies Aligned”

Beyond the protocol, the Elysee therefore hopes to have a “demanding” dialogue. “We are not aligned allies,” notes a presidential adviser. First on Ukraine. Since the Russian invasion, Emmanuel Macron has been playing a little music that has long annoyed the American partner: total support for kyiv, but also dialogue with Moscow so that, when the Ukrainians decide, the war ends “around the table of negotiations”.

The French head of state continues to reconcile this diplomatic “at the same time” by organizing a conference in Paris on December 13 in support of the civil resistance of Ukraine while promising to speak again, “in the coming days”. , to Vladimir Putin. But Washington seems to be getting closer to this position since its chief of staff, General Mark Milley, mentioned a possible window of opportunity for negotiations.

But Emmanuel Macron also wants a “resynchronization” of the economic response, on both sides of the Atlantic, to the crisis caused by the conflict and, more broadly, in terms of ecological transition and competition with China. On this last point, crucial for Joe Biden who sees the rivalry with Beijing as his main axis of foreign policy, a senior White House official acknowledged that the positions of the Americans and the Europeans were not “identical”, but that all shared the desire to “play a common score in response to China.”

The main subject of friction should be commercial

Paris is looking for the parade to the “Inflation Reduction Act” (IRA), which provides for massive investments for the energy transition – accompanied by generous subsidies for electric vehicles, batteries and renewable energies produced in the United States. “We will not sit idly by” in the face of this investment plan deemed protectionist, assured French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne. The White House wants to calm things down: “We are completely ready to have this conversation and find a way to address these concerns,” said John Kirby.

If President Macron hopes to obtain “exemptions” for a few European industries, he knows that it is unlikely that Joe Biden will reconsider the architecture of this crucial plan for his balance sheet. The idea is therefore rather to learn the lessons to go and defend a similar policy with the Europeans.

Source: Europe1

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