Macron welcomes Biden as they try to overcome trade tensions

PARIS (AP) – President Joe Biden is fueled by French President Emmanuel Macron with a state visit on Saturday as the two allies aim to show their partnership on global security issues and overcome trade tensions.

Biden and Macron attended ceremonies marking the 80th anniversary of the Landing Thursday and met separately the next day with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Paris. The leaders both used the commitments to emphasize the urgent need to support kyiv’s fight against the Russian invasion.

But Macron and Biden have often been angered by the pace of support for Ukraine, especially as the United States, by far the largest contributor to Kiev’s defense, has been forced to suspend aid deliveries for months while congressional Republicans suspended an aid program.

The state visit began with a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe, including a wreath-laying at the French tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and a military parade along the Champs-Élysées leading to the Elysée Palace, where the two men held official meetings and gave speeches. public statements. Later, there will be a state dinner at the palace for Biden and his wife, Jill.

“Proud to be here,” Biden said at the Arc de Triomphe. “A great honor.”

Biden welcomed Macron in December 2022 to the White House for the first state visit of his presidency As the COVID-19 pandemic receded.

Jill Biden returned to Paris aboard a U.S. government plane after spending Friday in Delaware to support their son, Hunter Biden, who is on trial on federal gun-related charges.

As the president’s trip draws to a close, the far right is expected to emerge as a leader one of the biggest winners during Sunday’s European elections while Macron pro-European Union movement is weakening.

A senior French official said Macron and Biden enjoyed friendly and warm relations and noted that the US president was spending five days in France, reflecting the importance he attaches to the visit. The official spoke anonymously, in line with standard practices in Macron’s office.

The official said the U.S. presidential campaign was not a factor in the discussion.

Macron hosted former President Donald Trump, this year’s presumptive Republican nominee, for Bastille Day in 2017, and he came to Washington for a state visit in 2018 before their relations deteriorated.

U.S. and French officials said Ukraine would be at the top of Saturday’s agenda, but the centerpiece of the weekend’s event would be the strength of the alliance, fortified in Normandy ago 80 years old, but whose roots go much deeper.

“It’s probably a good thing for us to remember that we did not win our independence without foreign aid or foreign assistance, particularly from France,” the White House press secretary said Friday. national security, John Kirby.

Max Bergmann, a former U.S. State Department official who directs research on Europe at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said U.S.-French relations were strong despite occasional disagreements.

“There are always tensions in Franco-American relations because the French are trying to do things,” he said. “They are bold, they throw out proposals, and that causes friction when we react.”

For example, he said, France has offered to send Western trainers on the ground in Ukraine, raising the question of whether this “really gives Ukraine a major, tangible advantage” or s it has “the potential to be disturbing and dangerous”.

Of Macron, Bergmann said: “He is the one who pushes the limits and who launches ideas.”

Kirby said the two leaders would make an announcement Saturday on deepening maritime law enforcement cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. They were also to discuss economic and climate challenges.

While welcoming the Biden administration’s commitment to supporting Ukraine, Macron said earlier this year that Europe must become “capable of defending its interests, with its allies on our side whenever they wish, and alone if necessary”, arguing that the continent should rely less on the United States for its own defense.

He also warned Western powers against any signs of weakness towards Russia, repeatedly saying: send Western troops to Ukraine strengthening your defense cannot be ruled out.

The leaders were also expected to discuss their efforts to achieve a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, as the United States and Israel await Hamas’ response to a ceasefire proposal promoted by Biden which would allow increased humanitarian aid. on the territory.

Macron is expected to discuss U.S. trade practices that he has often criticized, including the Inflation Reduction Act, which favors American-made climate technologies, such as electric vehicles. Macron said the United States, like China, has “decided not to respect the rules of global trade” by strengthening protections and subsidies while European industry remains open and stuck in excessive regulation.

The French official said Europe must defend its interests, having seen the United States do the same with its own, but said Macron hoped to find a mutually acceptable outcome.

As the two men met outside the palace, Biden appeared to suggest to his host that the United States and Europe could “coordinate together,” and was heard telling Macron about his latest conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who opposed a sharp increase in the United States. tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles.

Gary Hufbauer, a nonresident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said trade with China is a point of friction between the United States and Europe, particularly France. The United States is more willing to restrict trade, especially when it comes to technology.

Biden is also moving toward tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles and batteries, which could affect European cars with Chinese parts.

Overall, Hufbauer said: “Europe wants to maintain much greater trade with China than the United States wants. »

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