French President Emmanuel Macron has repudiated many aspects of President Donald Trump’s political world view while simultaneously linking the two countries’ fates in the past, present, and future, during a sweeping address to a joint session of the US Congress.
A day after Mr Macron met with Mr Trump for a friendly day of pomp and circumstance at the White House, on the first state visit of this American presidency, Mr Macron urged Mr Trump to keep the US in the Iran nuclear deal, predicted that America would rejoin the Paris climate accord and warned against the dangers of nationalism.
With Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan behind him, Mr Macron told the assembled Congress that isolationism and nationalism are “a tempting remedy for our fears”, but that international engagement and cooperation were the true solution.
“This requires – more than ever – the United States’ involvement, as your role was decisive for creating and guarding today’s free world. The United States is the one who invented this multilateralism. You are the one now who has to help preserve and reinvent it,” Mr Macron said.
The address, which began with a detailed description of the connections between the United States and France since the inception of their democracies, appeared to be an attempt to leverage the amiable relationship between Mr Macron and Mr Trump – they kissed at the White House, and Mr Trump at one point made a show of brushing what he said was dandruff off his French counterpart’s shoulder – to encourage the US president to reconsider some of his more contentious policies.
Discussing the Iranian nuclear agreement, which was implemented by Mr Trumps’ predecessor, Mr Macron said that the deal should be left intact, but recognised concerns that it is not enough to curb the Middle Eastern country’s nuclear ambitions.
While Mr Trump has remained publicly undecided about whether he will allow sanctions on Iran to remain suspended, Mr Macron cast the issue as one of national security and pledged that France would not walk away.
“Whatever the decision of the United States will be, we will not leave the floor to the actions of rogues,” Mr Macron said. “We will not leave the floor to this conflict of powers in the Middle East.
“I think we can work together to build this comprehensive deal for the whole region, for our people, because I think it fairly addresses our concerns.”
Mr Macron cast the Paris climate change agreement as an essential safeguard to ensure that future generations are able to strive and grow, and noted that the US had spearheaded that agreement as well.
“We signed it at the initiative of the United States,” he said. “We signed it, both the United States and France – that is why we cannot say that we should get rid of it like that.”
“I am sure one day, the US will come back and join the Paris Agreement,” Mr Macron said. “Let us face it: There is no planet B.”
The various aspects of the speech were received differently by the politicians in the room. When the French president mentioned reducing carbon emissions, for instance, a group of what appeared to be only Democrats eagerly applauded.
At other moments – especially those in which Mr Macron praised the strong relationship between France and the US – the claps of approval were bipartisan in nature.
Mr Macron’s speech and visit, particularly when it came to trade between the US and France, sparked some concern from members of Parliament who claimed that the French president was realigning itself as the go-to country for the United States in Europe post-Brexit: a relegation of the historically cosy relationship that the United Kingdom has enjoyed with America.
“An expansive, ambitious, global speech from Mr Macron. He exploits the potential of bridging European Union and US power, until recently the British preserve,” Labour Party MP Peter Kyle tweeted.
“Trump calls it a ‘special relationship’ and Congress are rapturous. Brexit is not empowering Britain; it’s marginalising us.”
The speech came after Mr Macron and Mr Trump met during the three day visit, and held meetings to discuss several issues including those mentioned in the speech. Mr Macron reportedly met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel before the visit, and Ms Merkel is expected to visit Washington on Friday.