Macron in America… looking for common ground

Macron in America… looking for common ground

Macron in America… looking for common ground

Macron in America… looking for common ground

In terms of transatlantic symbols, one hopes that Emmanuel Macron’s upcoming visit to the US capital, Washington, will have a more positive aura than the recent phone call that brought Joe Biden and Chancellor Olaf Schultz together.
In the call, the two leaders discussed Shultz’s recent and widely criticized visit to China and expressed a “shared” commitment to upholding the rules-based world order. They also discussed Taiwan, human rights and Ukraine with Xi Jinping.
But diplomatic niceties cannot obscure the chasm that exists between the American establishment’s view of China as its main competitor and Berlin’s interest in maintaining vital trade links. It’s one of several cracks in US-EU relations trying to move beyond the Trump era – at a time when observers say there is a risk of a clash.
In fact, Europe is no longer viewed by the White House as an “adversary” who benefits from US security for free, exploits abundant exports in a depreciated European currency and entrusts energy supplies to Russia. The two allies are also on good terms geopolitically when it comes to invading Ukraine, as Germany is now willing to spend more on defense and less on Russian gas.
At the same time, however, the United States believes that the European Union is not doing enough: it is not sending enough military or financial support to Kyiv, and it is not determined enough to confront China, as the Shultz-Biden call shows. Beijing’s view of the European Union as a partner and competitor is causing great “confusion” in Washington. As former Obama adviser Benjamin Rhodes puts it, “China lacks Europe.”
Within Europe, resentment is growing amid deepening economic disparity with the United States. The eurozone’s trade surplus has now turned into a deficit at a time when expensive energy imports are impoverishing European consumers and enriching US exporters. It can also be seen that purchases of durable goods (like cars and washing machines) in the United States are up 24% since December 2019, but are down 6.7% in France, according to strategist Nicolas Gotzman. This comes at a time when new US subsidies for electric vehicles are exacerbating the plight of manufacturers in the European Union.
Here is an opportunity for Macron, himself at odds with Schultz on some issues, to urgently seize the opportunity to improve transatlantic ties when he meets Biden on December 1. Semantically and symbolically, Macron will be the first state visitor to be received by the US President.
One of his challenges, however, is to show the United States why France and Europe should be treated as partners, not belittled and ignored. There is no doubt that Macron will be conjuring up the humiliating “Oaks” episode here, in which an Australian deal to buy French submarines was canceled in favor of an alliance with the UK and US.
In addition to pledging greater support for Kyiv, France should seek greater unity with Biden in the Pacific region — and in China. France is the only power in the European Union with a presence in the region, says Camille Grand of the European Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, with about 7,000 soldiers and 1.5 million citizens. Her strategy attempts to complement US strategy, although she presents herself as a “balancing force”. Macron said last September that France wanted to counter the threat of regional “hegemony” by cooperating with India and Australia.
Although not entirely aligned with the United States, France can at least defend a position closer to Washington than Berlin’s. China is France’s fifth trading partner with a total trade volume of about $87.3 billion, but it is Germany’s second most important partner with a total trade volume of about $236 billion. When Macron met with “Xi” on the sidelines of the G-20, the meeting between them was more in line with Biden’s position than Schultz’s. This means that Paris has “a card to play” at a time when European allies are struggling for influence, says Jeremy Gallon of the consulting firm McLarty Associates.
Conversely, Macron should also push for more American support for the European economy, whose bleak prospects have not been given enough credit by America. And if Washington really wants to impose the “Supporting Friends” slogan between allies and “NATO” partners, then it should find a consensus to de-escalate the dispute over support for the electric vehicle.
In a scenario reminiscent of Obama’s pressure on Angela Merkel during the eurozone crisis, the US may also see benefits in supporting Europe’s growth spurt through more joint investment and borrowing, which Berlin opposes.
Of course, one visit will not solve all problems. However, confidence between France and the United States is unclear as to whether Paris will push for a European or French-led defense. While Macron heads the EU’s only nuclear power and its most credible military, he has also drawn concern and resentment for his failure to direct military aid to Ukraine and his previous criticisms of NATO’s goal. It’s “not the most popular among Eastern Europeans, not even among Southern Europeans,” write Elke Tuygur and Max Bergman of the Center for International and Strategic Studies in Washington.
But the imagery and rhetoric of the Franco-American encounter in Washington — the city designed by a French architect — would be a good place to start. The Macron administration will have to ease the Franco-German dispute and the suffering caused by the energy crisis. As former Ambassador Pierre Vimont points out, the Biden administration needs allies like Europe to advance its global agenda. Undoubtedly worth the effort.
Published by special arrangement with The Washington Post and Bloomberg News Service.


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