French President Emmanuel Macron arrived yesterday (23 April) for the first state visit of the White House during Donald Trump’s tenure. His three-day visit is a test of whether the personal bonhomie between the two leaders can bridge the profound policy divides on issues such as climate change and the Iranian nuclear deal. “This visit is really important in our current context, with so many uncertainties, troubles and, at times, threats,” Mr. Macron said after landing in Washington.
The personal chemistry that has developed since the two Presidents met at a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) conference last year has been a study of contrasts ever since. Analysts agree that the question is whether Emmanuel Macron will be able to use his personal connection with Donald Trump to try to overcome policy disagreements. The French President is one of the few Western leaders having an open dialogue with Donald Trump. They have regular phone conversations and when the White House needed allies to join the recent airstrikes in Syria, Paris readily answered the call.
Mr. Macron is hoping to make his visit an opportunity to guide Mr. Trump back towards multilateral cooperation and longstanding Western alliances. The US and France, he said on Monday, are the “guarantors of contemporary multilateralism.” One of his main goals is to convince Donald Trump to keep the US in the Iranian nuclear agreement after 14 May – Donald Trump’s self-imposed deadline to make a decision. On climate, for example, Emmanuel Macron is believed to continue to try to mitigate global warming while facing the openly anti-climate skeptic American president. According to some analysts, this disagreement on climate at the state level is not a very huge issue since Paris relies heavily on nonprofit organizations and civil society to advance the climate cause.