Macron blows up Biden’s subsidies at the start of the state visit to the United States

Natalie Portman
By Natalie Portman 5 Min Read

French President Emmanuel Macron fired an undiplomatic barrage at his American guests on the first day of a rare state visit to Washington, telling lawmakers Wednesday that U.S. industrial subsidies are “super aggressive” against French competitors.

“This is super aggressive for our businessmen,” overheard an AFP reporter Macron tell congressmen and business leaders, who had invited him to lunch before the main part of the state visit on Thursday, when the French leader will spend most of the day with President Joe Biden.

Macron was referring to Biden’s signed policy called the Inflation Reduction Act, which is set to pour billions of dollars into environmentally friendly industries, with strong support for US-based manufacturers.

The White House touts the IRA legislation as a game-changing effort to reignite US manufacturing and boost renewable technologies, but European Union governments are crying foul, threatening to launch a trade war by subsidizing their own sector of the green economy.

Macron’s blunt assessment, saying he just wanted to ‘be respected as a good friend’, ripped off part of the veneer of a carefully choreographed state visit meant to celebrate historic US-France ties – and also address the trickier parts of the transatlantic US-EU alliance.

Macron warned that the US defending its industry under the IRA “will kill a lot of jobs” in Europe and could “maybe solve your problem but you’ll increase my problem”.

Space speeches

Earlier, Macron joined Vice President Kamala Harris at the NASA facility in Washington to discuss cooperation in space.

“France is a vital ally to the United States and this visit demonstrates the strength of our partnership, our friendship…, based on shared democratic principles and values,” Harris told Macron.

Macron then remained in the high-tech sphere with a meeting on civilian nuclear energy. His busy schedule, which also included a working lunch to discuss biodiversity and clean energy, and a visit to historic Arlington National Cemetery, illustrated the ambitions set for the trip: the first official state visit by a foreign leader to Washington since Biden took office nearly two years ago.

The focus of the visit will be Thursday, including a White House military honor guard, talks in the Oval Office with Biden, a joint press conference, and a banquet featuring Grammy-winning American musician Jon Batiste.

EU-US tensions

Trade tensions, however, are only part of the uncomfortable downside of the red carpet occasion.

Another grievance in Europe is the high cost of US LNG exports, which have increased to help offset canceled Russian deliveries.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the US side wants to defuse tensions, promising “transparent and candid” discussions.

“We will certainly remain open to hearing” the EU’s concerns, he said.

There is also divergence over how to deal with the rise of the Chinese superpower. The issue – with Washington pursuing a more aggressive tone and EU powers trying to find a middle ground – is unlikely to see much progress.

“Europe has had its own unique strategy for relations with China since 2018,” French embassy spokesman Pascal Confavreux tweeted in Washington.

Kirby said China will be “high on the agenda” this week, but stressed that both countries share a broad approach.

“We believe that not only France, but all other G7 members – frankly, even our NATO allies – see the threats and challenges posed by China in the same way.”

The breadth of Macron’s entourage – including foreign, defense and finance ministers, as well as businessmen and astronauts – illustrates the importance Paris attached to the visit.

In the White House, however, a senior official said the main goal of the state visit is to cultivate the “personal relationship, the alliance relationship” with France and between Biden and Macron.

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