Biden to Host Macron in State Visit 11/29 06:14
WASHINGTON (AP) -- French President Emmanuel Macron is headed to Washington
for the first state visit of Joe Biden's presidency -- a revival of diplomatic
pageantry that had been put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Biden-Macron relationship had a choppy start. Macron briefly recalled
France's ambassador to the United States last year after the White House
announced a deal to sell nuclear submarines to Australia, undermining a
contract for France to sell diesel-powered submarines.
But the relationship has turned around with Macron emerging as one of
Biden's most forward-facing European allies in the Western response to Russia's
invasion of Ukraine. This week's visit -- it will include Oval Office talks, a
glitzy dinner, a news conference and more -- comes at a critical moment for
The leaders have a long agenda for their Thursday meeting at the White
House, including Iran's nuclear program, China's increasing assertiveness in
the Indo-Pacific and growing concerns about security and stability in Africa's
Sahel region, according to U.S. and French officials. But front and center
during their Oval Office meeting will be Russia's war in Ukraine, as both Biden
and Macron work to maintain economic and military support for Kyiv as it tries
to repel Russian forces.
In Washington, Republicans are set to take control of the House, where GOP
leader Kevin McCarthy says Republicans will not write a "blank check" for
Ukraine. Across the Atlantic, Macron's efforts to keep Europe united will be
tested by the mounting costs of supporting Ukraine in the nine-month war and as
Europe battles rising energy prices that threaten to derail the post-pandemic
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Monday
described Macron as the "dynamic leader" of America's oldest ally while
explaining Biden's decision to honor the French president with the first state
visit of his presidency.
The U.S. tradition of honoring foreign heads of state dates back to Ulysses
S. Grant, who hosted King David Kalakaua of the Kingdom of Hawaii for a more
than 20-course White House dinner, but the tradition has been on hold since
2019 because of COVID-19 concerns.
"If you look at what's going on in Ukraine, look at what's going on in the
Indo Pacific and the tensions with China, France is really at the center of all
those things," Kirby said. "And so the president felt that this was exactly the
right and the most appropriate country to start with for state visits."
Macron was also Republican Donald Trump's pick as the first foreign leader
to be honored with a state visit during his term. The 2018 state visit included
a jaunt by the two leaders to Mount Vernon, the Virginia estate of George
Washington, America's founding president.
Macron was scheduled to arrive in Washington on Tuesday evening ahead of a
packed day of meetings and appearances in and around Washington on Wednesday --
including a visit to NASA headquarters with Vice President Kamala Harris and
talks with Biden administration officials on nuclear energy.
On Thursday, Macron will have his private meeting with Biden followed by a
joint news conference and visits to the State Department and Capitol Hill
before Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron, are feted at the state dinner.
Grammy winner Jon Batiste is to provide the entertainment.
Macron will head to New Orleans on Friday, where he is to announce plans to
expand programming to support French language education in U.S. schools,
according to French officials.
For all of that, there are still areas of tension in the U.S.-French
Biden has steered clear of embracing Macron's calls on Ukraine to resume
peace talks with Russia, something Biden has repeatedly said is a decision
solely in the hands of Ukraine's leadership.
Perhaps more pressing are differences that France and other European Union
leaders have raised about Biden's Inflation Reduction Act, sweeping legislation
passed in August that includes historic spending on climate and energy
initiatives. Macron and other leaders have been rankled by a provision in the
bill that provides tax credits to consumers who buy electric vehicles
manufactured in North America.
The French president, in making his case against the subsidies, will
underscore that it's crucial for "Europe, like the U.S., to come out stronger
... not weaker" as the world emerges from the tumult of the pandemic and
Russia's invasion of Ukraine, according to a senior French government official
who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity to preview private talks.
Macron earlier this month said the subsidies could upend the "level playing
field" on trade with the EU and called aspects of the Biden legislation
The White House, meanwhile, plans to counter that the legislation goes a
long way in helping the U.S. meet global efforts to curb climate change. The
president and aides will also impress on the French that the legislation will
also create new opportunities for French companies and others in Europe,
according to a senior Biden administration official who briefed reporters on
the condition of anonymity to preview the talks.
Macron's visit comes about 14 months after the relationship hit its nadir
after the U.S. announced its deal to sell nuclear submarines to Australia.
After the announcement of the deal, which had been negotiated in secret,
France briefly recalled its ambassador to Washington. A few weeks later Macron
met Biden in Rome ahead of the Group of 20 summit, where the U.S. president
sought to patch things up by acknowledging his administration had been "clumsy"
in how it handled the issue.
Macron's visit with Harris to NASA headquarters on Wednesday will offer the
two countries a chance to spotlight their cooperation on space.
France in June signed the Artemis Accords, a blueprint for space cooperation
and supporting NASA's plans to return humans to the moon by 2024 and to launch
a historic human mission to Mars.
The same month, the U.S. joined a French initiative to develop new tools for
adapting to climate change, the Space for Climate Observatory.