WASHINGTON (AP) –
Presidents Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron sat down Thursday for the centerpieces of a pomp-filled French state visit, with the two leaders eager to discuss the war in Ukraine, concerns about China’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific and European unease over aspects of the landmark law on Biden’s climate.
Biden honored Macron with the first state dinner of his presidency on Thursday night, but first the two leaders met in the Oval Office to discuss tough issues facing them.
At the top of the agenda is the nine-month war in Ukraine, in which Biden and Macron face headwinds as they try to maintain unity in the US and Europe to keep economic and military aid flowing to Kyiv as he tries to repel the Russian forces.
“The choices we make today and the years ahead will determine the course of our world for decades to come,” Biden said at an arrival ceremony.
At the start of the face-to-face meeting, Macron acknowledged the “challenging times” in Ukraine and urged the two nations to “better synchronize their actions” on climate.
The leaders began their talks shortly after hundreds of people gathered on the South Lawn on a sunny, chilly morning for the ceremony, which included a 21-gun salute and a troop review. Ushers handed out small French and American flags to guests who gathered to watch the start of Biden and Macron’s state visit.
Both leaders at the ceremony paid tribute to their countries’ long-standing alliance. But they acknowledged that difficult times lie ahead as Western unity appears to be fraying nine months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In Washington, Republicans are poised to take control of the House, where GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said his party’s lawmakers would not write a “blank check” on Ukraine. Across the Atlantic, Macron’s efforts to keep Europe united will be tested by the rising costs of supporting Ukraine in the war and as Europe grapples with rising energy prices that threaten to derail the post-pandemic economic recovery.
At the arrival ceremony, Macron stressed the need for the US and France to keep the West united while the war continues.
“Our two nations are sisters in the fight for freedom,” Macron said.
Amid talk of maintaining unity, trade differences overshadowed the visit.
Macron has made it clear that he and other European leaders are concerned about incentives in a new climate-related law that favor American-made climate technologies, including electric vehicles.
He criticized the legislation known as Inflation Reduction Act, during a Wednesday lunch with US lawmakers and again during a speech at the French embassy. Macron said that while the Biden administration’s efforts to curb climate change should be applauded, the subsidies would be a huge obstacle for European companies.
“The choices that have been made… are choices that will tear the West apart,” Macron said. He said the legislation “creates such differences between the United States of America and Europe that all those who work in many companies (in the U.S.) they will simply think, ‘We are no longer making investments on the other side of the Atlantic.
He also said that major industrial nations must do more to tackle climate change and promote biodiversity.
In an interview that aired Thursday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Macron said the U.S. and France were working well together on the war in Ukraine and geopolitics in general, but not on “some economic issues.” The US climate bill and semiconductor legislation, he said, were not properly coordinated with Europe and created a “lack of level playing field”.
He previously criticized a deal recently reached climate meeting in Egypt in which the United States and other rich nations agreed to help pay for the damage a warming world is doing to poor countries. The deal included few details on how it would be paid for, and Macron said a more comprehensive approach was needed — “not just a new fund that we decided would not be funded and even if it was funded, it would not be properly distributed. ″
The outspoken comments follow another low point last year, after Biden announced a deal to sell nuclear submarines to Australia, undermining a deal to sell diesel submarines with France. Relations have since rebounded, with Biden acknowledging the clumsy rollout of the submarine deal and Macron emerging as one of Biden’s strongest European allies in the West’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
As for the Inflation Reduction Act, European Union also expressed concern that tax credits, including those aimed at encouraging Americans to buy electric vehicles, would discriminate against European manufacturers and violate World Trade Organization rules.
Macron plans to present his case to US officials against the subsidies, stressing that it is crucial that “Europe, like the US, emerges stronger…not weaker” as the world emerges from the turmoil of the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine , according to a senior French government official
Macron also plans to seek exemptions from the U.S. law for some European clean energy producers, according to a second French official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with presidential practice.
Biden administration officials countered that the legislation does much to help the U.S. meet global goals to curb climate change.
Macron also raised eyebrows earlier this month in a speech at a summit in Bangkok when he called the US and China “two big elephants” behind creating a “big problem for the rest of the jungle”. His visit to Washington also comes as the US and France are keeping tabs on him China after the outbreak of protests last weekend in several mainland cities and Hong Kong because of Beijing’s “zero COVID” strategy.
The honor of this state visit is a diplomatic boost for Macron that he can use back in Europe. His outspoken comments help him demonstrate that he protects French workers, even though he maintains a close relationship with Biden. The moment also helps Macron shed his image as the EU’s most visible and vocal leader at a time when Europe is increasingly concerned that its economy will be indelibly weakened by the war in Ukraine and its resulting energy and inflation crises.
Macron and his wife Brigitte came to the U.S. with gifts carefully tailored to their American hosts, including vinyl and a CD of the original soundtrack from the 1966 film “Un Homme et une Femme,” which the Bidens went to see on their first date, according to the palace.
Biden and First Lady Jill Biden presented the Macron family with a mirror framed by a fallen tree from the White House grounds and made by an American furniture maker. This is a reproduction of a mirror from the White House collection that hangs in the West Wing.
Biden also presented President Macron with a personalized vinyl record collection of great American musicians and an archival facsimile of Thomas Edison’s 1877 patent for the American phonograph. The first lady presented Ms Macron with a gold and emerald pendant necklace designed by a French-American designer.
Harris will host Macron for lunch at the State Department before the evening state dinner for about 350 guests, a glamorous gala to be held in a huge tented pavilion set up on the South Lawn of the White House.
Corbett reported from Paris. Associated Press writers Frank Jordans in Berlin and Chris Megerian, Colleen Long and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.
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