Jacques Serais, with AFP
7:29 p.m., November 30, 2022
“France is a vital ally for the United States”: Vice-President Kamala Harris welcomed Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday, at the start of a state visit which should settle yesterday’s grievances and if possible demine the today’s tensions around American protectionism. In a warm tone, and with many smiles on both sides, she received the French president at NASA headquarters to praise cooperation “based on democratic principles and shared values.”
Emmanuel Macron estimated, in English, that these “shared democratic values” should also apply in space, which he described as a “new place of international conflict”.
Call for new rules to govern space conquest and exploration
The French president therefore called on France and the United States to work together to restore “new rules” governing the conquest and space exploration. He was accompanied by astronauts Sophie Adenot and Thomas Pesquet – the latter having already applied to board one of the rockets that America intends to send to the Moon, as part of its ambitious Artemis project.
The French president, the first to be honored by the Biden administration with a state visit, is to spend three days in the country. The first will be studious: after NASA, he will have a meeting on the environment with American parliamentarians, and another on civil nuclear power with industry players. The Head of State will also address the French community, after a traditional ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
A dinner in Washington for the Macron and Biden couples
Finally, Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron will meet Joe and Jill Biden for a dinner intended to be intimate, far from the formal pomp that the White House will deploy on Thursday for the French president, between cannon shots, meeting in the Oval Office and gala dinner. “USA! A moment to celebrate the friendship between our two countries. A moment to progress together in a period of great challenges”, Emmanuel Macron tweeted in English shortly after his arrival on Tuesday evening.
USA! A moment to celebrate the friendship between our two countries. A moment to progress together in a time of great challenges. pic.twitter.com/Pw5EfktFC2
—Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) November 30, 2022
Like his Republican predecessor Donald Trump in 2018, the 80-year-old Democratic president chose his French counterpart, 44, for the first state visit of his term. “France is literally one of the threads from which our nation is woven,” a spokesman for the American executive, John Kirby, told French journalists, praising the “leadership”, “the experience” and “ the wisdom” of Emmanuel Macron. A change of atmosphere in just over a year.
In September 2021, the United States announced a new alliance, AUKUS, with Australia and the United Kingdom, arousing the ire of France, kept away in a key region of the world and which was losing, in passage, a mega-deal to sell submarines in Canberra. Since then, Washington has multiplied the gestures to appease its ally and wants, as John Kirby said, a partnership “resolutely turned towards the future”.
US talks about a ‘win-win’ economic plan
The future is in particular energy transition, competition with China, industrial recovery… The American president is tackling these challenges with an uninhibited economic patriotism that irritates Paris. Joe Biden has embarked on a pharaonic spending program, the Inflation Reduction Act, with the watchword “Made in the USA”: he intends, in particular, to generously subsidize the entire electric vehicle sector. Something to fuel the conversation in the Oval Office on Thursday. Deeming this law “protectionist”, Paris said it hoped to obtain “exemptions” for certain European industries.
But the White House does not intend to announce exemptions immediately, and prefers to speak of a “win-win” plan, which will ultimately also benefit the European economy. The Elysée would like to rally Europeans to another form of parade: the adoption of a comparable commercial weapon, a “Buy European Act”.
The two leaders should also display a message of unity on Ukraine, promising to continue to support kyiv as much as necessary while explaining that negotiations with Moscow can only take place when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky deems it appropriate.