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Come on, we’re allies – POLITICO

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Washington this week looks like the last major diplomatic gala where Europe can persuade US President Joe Biden to be lenient with his EU allies and avoid a trade war.

Macron will get blue cordblack-tie treatment — enjoying all the pomp and ceremony of the first full state visit Biden hosted, complete with a troupe review and musical accompaniment from Grammy-winning musician Jon Batiste.

Beneath the razzmatazz, however, Macron has a very clear wish list for Biden. He wants to know if the US president can offer cheaper gas and European access to a US multi-billion dollar subsidy program for green industries. If Biden cannot deliver on his promises, a transatlantic trade war will be more or less inevitable, risking a subsidy race between Europe and America and retaliatory tariffs give and take.

The European camp’s argument is that America needs to show greater solidarity with Europe, which is bearing the economic brunt of the war in Ukraine. If it wasn’t infuriating enough that EU energy prices are now soaring well above those in the US, Europeans are furious that Washington is bringing in a windfall subsidy package they say , will only further suck in investment from Europe. Major auto-making nations like France and Germany are furious that the Cut Inflation Act introduces what they see as potentially illegal “Buy American” incentives for buying electric vehicles.

Amid growing frustration in Europe that America is profiting from the war while its allies are struggling, Macron has previously accused the United States of pursuing an “aggressive” protectionist approach and claims that US gas prices are not not “friendly”. Of all the countries in the EU, France is the most vehement in defending Europe Inc. through trade defenses and in providing subsidies to champion companies.

France’s presidential palace, the Elysée, said Macron would push for “more transatlantic unity” over investment policies and the impact of the war in Ukraine.

“[Biden] must take into account what happens after the war. The EU bears the brunt of the sanctions, and the impact of this effort against Russia is quite clear,” an Elysee official said. “There is a risk that imbalances will worsen as the EU pays higher energy prices and the US takes steps to boost investment in industry,” he said. declared.

The key breakthrough for Macron would be some sort of concession that European allies could get the same rights in IRA grant deals as American, Canadian and Mexican companies. Gas poses a trickier question because prices are set by the market, but the Elysee Palace says the US president has several “options” to bring prices down.

Whether Americans – whose indifference to Europe’s problems has not gone unnoticed – will hear his message is far from certain.

The oldest ally

In many ways, Macron’s visit to the United States is seen as a return to normalcy after Trump’s turbulent years and the fierce diplomatic row sparked by the AUKUS defense pact last year when Australia withdrew. pulled out of a multibillion-dollar submarine deal with France to instead acquire America-built nuclear-powered submarines. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the decision a “stab in the back” and, in the process, France recalled its ambassador to the United States. , forming an integral part of the international front against Putin’s war.

There will be none of the crackling tensions and awkward handshakes that marked the French president’s meeting with former President Donald Trump in 2018 during Macron’s first state visit to the United States. Since then, the Major world events unfolded at a dizzying pace – from a global pandemic to war in Ukraine, as well as Russia’s alliance with China. Rarely has the need for the two historic allies to deepen their alignment been greater.

Whether Macron will be able to bring the goods home remains to be seen, but the meeting looks set to deliver the cinematic aspect of the Franco-American revival.

Ahead of the French president’s state visit, John Kirby, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, highlighted the long history of close relations between the United States and its oldest ally. “This is an opportunity to highlight a fundamental element of this administration’s approach to foreign policy and that is through alliances,” Kirby told reporters.

Biden and his counterpart are expected to speak effusively about all that unites France and the United States: a shared history (especially in the American War of Independence), their support for Ukraine and their renewed commitment to NATO.

After a ceremony at Arlington Military Cemetery and a private dinner with the Bidens on Wednesday, the French president will be officially welcomed to the White House with volleys of cannon and a review of troops on Thursday. The two leaders will then hold bilateral meetings, followed by a joint press conference and a state dinner where Batiste has been invited to perform.

There are many things the two presidents will agree on.

“Biden is an internationalist, he likes Europeans. There have been tensions [with Macron]but there is not much difference in their points of view on many subjects,” explains Nicole Bacharan, a Franco-American political scientist and author.

“I think it will be a success because both want it and need it. [Macron and Biden] can get along. There was the ugly AUKUS moment, but Putin brought them together,” she said.

In addition to adjusting the IRA legislation so that European manufacturers enjoy the same advantages granted to Canadian and Mexican manufacturers, the French also want the Biden administration to pressure companies selling liquefied natural gas in Europe to maintain acceptable prices. and help Europeans bear the brunt of the sanctions. The Elysée believes that the American president has a number of “options” he could work on to bring prices down.

Time is running out for the old continent

It is not clear, however, if there is an appetite in the United States to give in to French demands.

A senior French economy ministry official noted that Washington was unlikely to abandon the IRA measures. “It seems difficult since the text was voted on in Congress,” the official said, noting that “there are enforcement measures where they can have some flexibility to avoid adverse effects on Europe.”

While Macron continues his charm offensive in Washington, others in France sent harsher messages to their American counterparts.

If the United States does not change its law on reducing inflation, the EU should use “coercive” measures to ensure that European companies benefit from the same conditions as American companies, said Friday at the urges the French Trade Minister, Olivier Becht.

“I think the problem is definitely going to come up,” Kirby of the White House National Security Council said of the IRA. “We look forward to having this discussion with our French counterparts.”

He added: “The bottom line for us is first and foremost that we want to understand the concern. We are absolutely open to having this conversation and finding a way to resolve these issues.”

Late Monday evening, Washington was still giving no indication that it might amend IRA legislation, according to the playback of a video call between US Trade Representative Katherine Tai and French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire.

But the time for peace talks with the United States is running out, as key elements are expected to come into force in January. Europeans have refined their own response to the IRA, with many calling for Europe to urgently pass its own set of subsidies to protect sensitive industries.

Macron himself has repeatedly said that he will not sit idly by and watch the Americans and Chinese pursue aggressive public subsidy policies. France is pushing the EU to deploy its own wave of subsidies and reserve them for European industrialists.

Washington does not seem bothered by Brussels, which is fighting fire with fire. On the contrary, US Trade Representative Tai encouraged Brussels to do the same and step up its financial support to make Europe less dependent on foreign suppliers.

A Franco-German consensus has emerged on the need to react by increasing subsidies in strategic industrial sectors, but it is still unclear what the EU’s response could be, with several EU countries unwilling to adopt an approach more protectionist. Paris has repeatedly said that Europe should also consider replicating what the United States has done and introducing measures that would treat European and foreign companies differently.

If Macron’s campaign fails, Europeans will be faced with a stark choice: take the path of protectionism and risk a race for subsidies they cannot afford, or sit idly by and watch protectionist walls rise across the world.

Doug Palmer contributed reporting.

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