01 December 2022

Joe Biden welcomes Emmanuel Macron to White House for historic state visit

01 December 2022

Presidents Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron have sat down for the centrepiece talks of a pomp-filled French state visit to Washington, with the two leaders eager to talk through the war in Ukraine, concerns about China and European dismay over Mr Biden’s climate law.

Mr Biden is honouring his French counterpart with the first state dinner of his presidency on Thursday evening, but first the two leaders met in the Oval Office to discuss difficult issues they face.

At the top of the agenda is the nine-month-old war in Ukraine in which western powers try to maintain unity in the US and Europe to keep economic and military aid flowing to Kyiv as it tries to repel Russian forces.

“The choices we make today and the years ahead will determine the course of our world for decades to come,” Mr Biden said at an arrival ceremony.

Mr Macron at the start of the face-to-face meeting acknowledged the “challenging times” in Ukraine and called on the two nations to better “synchronise our actions” on climate.

The leaders began their talks shortly after hundreds of people gathered on the South Lawn for a ceremony that included a 21-gun salute and a review of troops.

Both leaders paid tribute to their countries’ long alliance, but they acknowledged difficult moments lay ahead as western unity shows some wear nine months into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In Washington, Republicans are set to take control of the House of Representatives, where party leader Kevin McCarthy has said his legislators will not write a “blank cheque” for Ukraine.

Across the Atlantic, Mr Macron’s efforts to keep Europe united will be tested by the mounting costs of supporting Ukraine in the war and as Europe battles rising energy prices that threaten to derail the post-pandemic economic recovery.

“Our two nations are sisters in the fight for freedom,” Mr Macron said.

But he has made clear that he and other European leaders are concerned about the incentives in a new climate-related law that favour American-made climate technology, including electric vehicles.

He criticised the legislation, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, during a luncheon on Wednesday with US legislators and again during a speech at the French Embassy.

He said that while the Biden administration’s efforts to curb climate change should be applauded, the subsidies would be an enormous setback for European companies.

“The choices that have been made… are choices that will fragment the West,” Mr Macron said.

He also said major industrial nations need to do more to address climate change and promote biodiversity.

In an interview that aired on Thursday, Mr Macron said the US and France were working together well on the war in Ukraine and geopolitics overall, but not on “some economic issues”.

The US climate bill and semiconductor legislation, he said, were not properly co-ordinated with Europe and created “the absence of a level playing field”.

The blunt comments follow another low point last year after Mr Biden announced a deal to sell nuclear submarines to Australia, undermining a contract for France to sell diesel-powered submarines.

The relationship has recovered since then with Mr Biden acknowledging a clumsy rollout of the submarine deal and Mr Macron emerging as one of the US president’s strongest European allies in the western response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Macron raised eyebrows earlier this month in a speech at a summit in Bangkok when he referred to the US and China as “two big elephants” on the cusp of creating “a big problem for the rest of the jungle”.

He and his wife Brigitte went to the US bearing gifts carefully tailored to their American hosts, including a vinyl and CD of the original soundtrack from the 1966 film Un Homme Et Une Femme, which the Bidens went to see on their first date.

Mr Biden and the first lady presented the Macrons with a mirror framed by fallen wood from the White House grounds, made by an American furniture maker. It is a reproduction of a mirror from the White House collection that hangs in the West Wing.

The US leader also gave Mr Macron a custom vinyl record collection of great American musicians and an archival facsimile print of Thomas Edison’s 1877 Patent of the American Phonograph.

The first lady gave Mrs Macron a gold and emerald pendant necklace designed by a French-American designer.

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