French President’s US Visit to Feature Serious Talk, a State Dinner and a Side Trip to New Orleans
WASHINGTON — French President Emmanuel Macron’s whirlwind visit to the U.S. this week will include multiple stops in the nation’s Capitol on Wednesday and Thursday and end with a visit to the Big Easy on Friday.
The White House announced Macron’s visit in September, and the State Dinner being held in honor of him and his wife, Brigitte Macron, on Thursday is the first to be held by the Biden administration.
“Being the first state visit under the Biden-Harris administration is really a great honor for our country,” a senior French official told reporters on a conference call Monday morning.
“It is also a really important confirmation not only of both of our oldest international alliances, but also a strategic partnership in the world of today and tomorrow,” he continued, adding, “It is a very, very politically important symbol, but it’s a very important visit in other contexts as well.
“This visit comes at a moment when I think all concerned want to see our two countries move closer together,” the French official said.
“We want Europe, like the U.S., to come out of this period stronger, not weaker than it was before, particularly in light of Russia’s brutal aggression against Ukraine,” the official continued.
“This is the political goal that is of interest to us all,” he said.
Behind all the inevitable smiles and handshakes intended to reaffirm the long-standing Franco-American relationship, will be some serious diplomacy as the two presidents continue to seek to recalibrate a partnership that has been beset by some strong disagreements since the Biden administration took office.
It was just over a year ago that Australia scuttled a submarine contract with France worth $66 billion at the behest of the U.S. and the United Kingdom, who were reportedly concerned the vessels being purchased wouldn’t be up to meeting the rising tensions in the Indo-Pacific region.
France, enraged, temporarily recalled its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia.
While the wound largely healed through the combined efforts of Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, discord arose anew in August with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.
For Europeans, the massive subsidies for U.S. manufacturers included in the package are a threat to industries on the continent that are already on the ropes due to surging energy prices stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Macron is expected to try to convince Biden that it is in the United States’ interest not to weaken European companies at a time Western allies are facing intense economic competition from China.
The French president is scheduled to fly into Washington, D.C., on Tuesday night, and begin his official duties early Wednesday morning.
It is expected he will visit Arlington National Cemetery and then honor World War II era recipients of the Legion of Honor in a ceremony at the French Embassy.
He’s also expected to attend work sessions on biodiversity, climate, nuclear energy and space, the latter subject being the focus of a visit to NASA headquarters, where he will be joined by Harris, whom Macron met during a five-day visit to Paris last year.
The meeting comes on the heels of the first U.S.-France Comprehensive Dialogue on Space in Paris last month, a whole-of-government dialogue that was agreed to during Harris’ trip.
Harris and Macron will review the progress on space cooperation between the two countries over the last year and receive a briefing from NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials who have been engaging with their French counterparts.
Macron will then move to Capitol Hill, where he is scheduled to meet with Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate.
While the political leaders speak, members of Macron’s traveling party, including several of France’s biggest business leaders, will meet with their counterparts here.
“You see, it’s not just about our two presidents meeting. It’s also about our president meeting with the many leaders in Congress, of both parties, and also about forging strong ties between our business communities,” the French official said.
“Because we need all of civil society to come closer together,” he said.
On Thursday the Macron’s will head to the White House to take part in a formal welcoming ceremony before the two presidents sit down behind closed doors for a private meeting.
The French official said China, Russia and Ukraine are all guaranteed to be discussed.
“It is an important moment. Not only to reaffirm our support for Ukraine, but also to adapt and increase that support, if necessary,” he said. “But many of the global challenges we face are linked to, and surely worsened by, the war in Ukraine.
“That’s another reason why it’s so important that we synchronize our policies, our economic policies, and avoid divergence between France and the U.S. on the subject of competitiveness,” he said.
The French official went on to name a number of areas that should be at the core of the ongoing bilateral partnership. These included defense, energy, space and technology.
In fact, he said, a number of heads of France’s most successful tech companies will be members of the French delegation coming to Washington.
He also noted that France is one of the five top European investors in the U.S., and that a number of French companies have located facilities here.
“These are active in manufacturing, in research, in renewables and in the motorcar industry,” he said. “So we are a part of all this. And we want to have a partnership … one in which each side of the Atlantic can participate on an equal footing.”
Harris will co-host a luncheon for Macron at the State Department on Thursday with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, where the focus of the discussion will be biodiversity and climate change, and then the French president will return to the White House for more meetings, a joint press conference with Biden and the State Dinner.
On Friday, the French delegation departs for New Orleans, Louisiana, where it will meet with Gov. John Bel Edwards and “stakeholders in climate and energy transition,” the French official said.
It will be the first visit to the city by a French president since 1976 and only the third ever.
During Monday’s briefing with reporters the French official said Macron intended to visit to showcase France’s cultural and social imprint in the United States.
He also plans to announce a fund to finance French language education in the state.
Finally, he plans to tour the French Quarter and participate in a discussion of culture and music while there.
Dan can be reached at email@example.com and @DanMcCue
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