Biden and Macron seek to heal trade rift and present united front on Ukraine

2 months ago

Biden and Macron seek to heal trade rift and present united front on Ukraine

The Guardian

Joe Biden has sought to heal a rift with France’s President Emmanuel Macron and other European leaders over trade, admitting there are “glitches” in $739bn legislation that he says can be fixed.

The US president was speaking on Thursday while hosting Macron for the first state visit of his presidency. The leaders expressed unity on support for Ukraine’s war against Russia but faced questions about their differences on trade.

America’s Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA, is set to pour billions of dollars into environmentally friendly industries, with strong backing for American-based manufacturers. The White House touts the IRA as a groundbreaking effort to restart domestic manufacturing and promote renewable technologies while challenging Chinese dominance.

But European Union governments have cried foul at the “Made in America” emphasis and threatened to launch a trade war by subsidising their own green economy sector.

In a joint press conference, Biden said of the legislation: “There’s obviously going to be glitches in it and need to reconcile changes in it.” He promised that “tweaks” would be made, adding that the US “never intended to exclude folks that were cooperating with us”.

The president added: “My point is we’re back in business and we’re going to continue to create manufacturing jobs but not at the expense of Europe.”

Speaking through an interpreter, Macron said he had explained to Biden that the legislation’s subsidies could kill off some green energy projects but he accepted these were unintended consequences.

He added: “We have no alternative but to work together. We need to resynchronise together.” Macron said France, like America, wanted to rebuild its manufacturing base after 50 years of industrial decline. “We want to succeed together, not one at the expense of the other.”

Some regard Macron’s pomp-filled visit as a lavish apology from Washington after last year’s bitter spat over the way Australia pulled out of a French submarine deal in favour of acquiring US nuclear subs instead, leaving Paris blindsided.

Speaking in the East Room amid gold curtains, crystal chandeliers and Christmas trees decorated with fairy lights, fake icicles and snow, Biden said: “Emmanuel has also become a friend. Occasionally we have some slight differences, but never in a fundamental way.”

The president and his wife Jill had greeted Macron and his wife Brigitte with hugs, kisses and broad smiles at a South Lawn ceremony where Macron, 44, repeatedly placed his hand on 80-year-old Biden’s back as the men walked together and pledged to uphold the “unwavering” US-French alliance ahead of talks on Ukraine, China and a looming trade dispute.

Service members from the marines, army, air force and even a detachment of soldiers in 18th-century revolutionary war garb paraded in front of the White House. Artillery fired off a 21-gun salute, sending puffs of white smoke into the sunny but chilly December sky.

Biden praised Macron as “not just the leader of France” and for being “very outspoken and very, very commanding in Europe”.

Macron departs with Joe Biden after their joint news conference.
Macron departs with Joe Biden after their joint news conference. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

The state visit is a boost to Macron diplomatically that he can leverage back in Europe. It could burnish his image as the EU’s most visible and vocal leader, at a time when Europe is increasingly concerned that its economy will be indelibly weakened by the Ukraine war and resulting energy and inflation crises.

At the East Room press conference, Biden said he had been shocked by Russia’s brutality in Ukraine but insisted that Vladimir Putin was “not going to succeed”, adding: “President Macron and I have resolved that we’re going to continue working together to hold Russia accountable for their actions and to mitigate the global impacts of Putin’s war on the rest of the world.”

Taking questions from reporters, Biden added: “There’s one way for this war to end – the rational way. Putin to pull out of Ukraine … it’s sick, what he’s doing … I’m prepared to speak with Mr Putin if in fact there is an interest in him deciding he’s looking for a way to end the war.”

Macron said they discussed initiatives “to keep supporting and strengthen our support to the Ukrainian troops and enable them to resist”.

Most of the visit has revolved around refreshing the long, if often slightly prickly, US-French diplomatic relationship.

Macron and his wife came to the US bearing gifts 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. The Bidens presented Macron with a custom mirror made of fallen wood from the White House grounds and a custom vinyl record collection of great American musicians.

The state dinner at the White House will return grand-scale entertainment to Washington in a way not seen since the Covid-19 pandemic shut it down.

The Grammy-award-winning American musician Jon Batiste will perform at the banquet, which the White House said will kick off with butter-poached Maine lobster, paired with caviar, delicata squash raviolo and tarragon sauce.

The main course features beef and triple-cooked butter potatoes, before leading to the cheese course of award-winning US brands, and finally orange chiffon cake, roasted pears with citrus sauce and creme fraiche ice cream. There will be also be three wines from American vineyards.