The president of the United States, Joe Biden, assured this Thursday that although at the moment he has no plans to do so, he does not rule out speaking with Vladimir Putin either, as long as the Russian president shows signs of wanting to end the war in Ukraine. That hypothetical conversation, he pointed out, would take place in consultation with NATO allies. The White House tenant spoke like this at a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, who is in Washington on a state visit.
Both defended the Western position in the war in Ukraine and stressed unwavering support, for as long as necessary, to the country invaded by Russia. “It is a matter of principle,” Macron stressed. If the national sovereignty or territorial integrity of countries enshrined in the founding charter of the UN fails to be respected, “global stability is endangered,” he said. For his part, Biden assured that it is “unthinkable” that Russia could ever win in Ukraine.
The war was one of the main axes of the three hours of conversation between the two leaders. The other, Biden’s ambitious economic plan to fight inflation and climate change, highly criticized by Europe – and specifically by Paris – in the face of measures that the Twenty-seven consider protectionist.
Biden threw an olive branch to his European allies, expressing his willingness to make “adjustments” to the plan. “At no time was the plan intended to exclude partners who collaborate with us,” he said. “There are adjustments that we can include that can make it easier for European countries to participate, or be there on their own,” he added.
France and the United States announced after the meeting the formation of a joint working group between the European Union and the United States to deal with trade disputes that may arise from the recently approved White House plan.
The US president assured that, although he maintains his defense of American companies, often a legislation of the draft of this plan contains small defects and unforeseen consequences. “We will continue to create manufacturing jobs in the United States, but not at the expense of Europe,” he insisted. For his part, Macron pointed out: “We have agreed to re-synchronize our positions, our programs to invest in fundamental emerging sectors. Semiconductors, batteries, hydrogen”.
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The two leaders also pledged to coordinate their response to “the challenge from China.” Iran’s nuclear program and the protests in that country, the situation in sub-Saharan Africa or the Middle East were also among the issues discussed.
The day had begun in the midst of the greatest pomp and circumstance: a solemn welcome ceremony in the White House gardens with all the finery: numerous national flags, a red carpet, a 21-gun salute, the respective anthems, a review of a guard of honor. And, above all, abundant and long handshakes, many smiles and kisses upon the arrival of Macron and his wife Brigitte, to underline the personal harmony between the two leaders ―well bundled up, like their respective wives, in the face of the low temperatures of the autumnal morning― and the good state of relations between the two countries.
The two presidents wanted to emphasize the excellence of those ties. A way to finally consider last year’s disagreement over. Then, France learned on television of the formation of the Aukus alliance – the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia – and the consequent annulment of the contract for the French construction of a batch of submarines for Canberra, worth some 60,000 million dollars (a similar amount of euros). French anger led Paris to recall its ambassador in Washington for consultations, an exceptionally harsh move.
Nothing of that anger floated this Thursday in the environment. In his speech at the welcome ceremony, Macron recalled the historic alliance between the two nations, which began at the time of American independence and which was endorsed again during World War II. “Common history forces us again, before the return of the war to European soil after the Russian aggression,” recalled the Élysée tenant. “We must go back to being brothers in arms.”
Biden, for his part, hailed the “perennial strength and vitality of the great friendship between France and the United States” and stressed: “France is our oldest ally, our unwavering partner in the cause of freedom.”
Beyond hugs, reality. Already at the beginning of the meeting in the Oval Office between the two leaders, Macron had put his priorities on the table: in Ukraine, to find a way to reach a “lasting peace” and to cooperate between the United States and Europe to solve the consequences ” direct and indirect effects of the war”, which have a greater impact on the economy of the Old Continent than on the first power.
He also called for a better “synchronization” of the commercial initiatives of both countries. An allusion to the Biden Administration’s plan to combat inflation and climate change – the so-called anti-inflation law -, highly criticized in Europe. The plan includes tax incentives that benefit American companies, and Europeans fear that their own firms will be hurt, especially in the electric vehicle sector. In an interview with the American television network ABC, Macron had warned that these incentives could drive a wedge between the two sides of the Atlantic and “fragment” the West.
The two heads of state will lead a state dinner for 400 people tonight in a pavilion specially set up in the White House gardens. At the banquet, in which the White House has thrown in the rest as it is the first of the current Administration, the recurring theme will be the alliance between the two nations. Sparkling wine will be served, in a nod to French champagne, but this time from American vineyards. A cheese board will also be presented, but they will also be made in the United States. The evening will be entertained by the musician from New Orleans ―former French colony― Jon Batiste.
The French president arrived in Washington on Tuesday night, for a trip that also included a visit to NASA headquarters with the vice president, Kamala Harris, a meeting with congressmen on nuclear energy and a private dinner with Biden and his wife, Jill, in a restaurant in the capital. On Friday, the French head of state will travel to Louisiana, the territory of French colonization that includes New Orleans and that Paris sold to Washington for 15 million dollars at the time and that constitutes a fifth of the national territory.
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