What France expects from 1st state visit hosted by Trump

Emmanuel Macron is arriving today in Washington for a state visit.

April 23, 2018, 7:18 AM

Paris -- French President Emmanuel Macron is arriving today in Washington for the first state visit of a foreign leader since President Donald Trump took office.

For the 40-year-old Frenchman, the three-day trip is an opportunity to demonstrate the strong relationship between France and the United States, but also to discuss the topics on which the two allies diverge.

“Strong, deep, old and solid,” Nicholas Dungan, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and a professor at Paris-based institute Sciences Po, said, describing the relationship between the United States and its oldest ally.

This U.S. invitation is perceived by the Elysée Palace – the French White House -- as an opportunity to “celebrate 250 years of friendship between our two countries.”

French President Emmanuel Macron walks with President Donald J. Trump as they leave Les Invalides museum in Paris, July 13, 2017.
Ian Langsdon via Shutterstock

Macron and Trump displayed their warm ties during last year’s Bastille Day celebrations in Paris.

“They are getting along,” senior research fellow Marie-Cécile Naves of the French institute of International and Strategic Relations said, “especially if you compare to Trump’s relationship with other foreign leaders.”

The French and U.S. presidents recently proved their capacity to act together by striking the chemical facilities of the Assad regime in Syria during a military operation alongside the United Kingdom.

There are also topics of disagreement, most notably the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris Climate Accord and trade. Such issues will be discussed during the visit, according to the Elysée Palace.

Trump is due to decide in the coming weeks whether to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement.

France's president Emmanuel Macron meets with President Donald Trump in New York on the sidelines of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 18, 2017.
Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images, FILE

What kind of progress France makes on this issue during the state visit remains to be seen. “We will develop our arguments and try to convince, but we do not expect to make diplomatic breakthroughs,” the Elysée Palace said.

The French delegation is being cautious on the Iran agreement, senior research fellow Naves said, but “Emmanuel Macron still hopes to persuade Trump to remain in the deal; it would be a big diplomatic victory for the French president.”

The state visit will also be an opportunity for Macron to introduce himself to the U.S. people. He will address -- in English -- a joint session of Congress Wednesday.

President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron shake hands before a lunch ahead of a NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

“He will send a message of friendship, respect and affection toward the American nation,” the Elysee Palace said.

Macron will host a town hall with George Washington University students the same day, allowing him to reach a younger U.S. audience.

“Emmanuel Macron has characteristics that are more classically American than French,” the Atlantic Council’s Dungan said.

“He is professional, rigorous and understands the value of work.”

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