By Robert Harneis –TDO- New French President bagged the double on July 14th, France’s national holiday. Donald Trump came to Paris, after Putin’s visit to Versailles. It was a full state visit and a considerable public relations exercise for both leaders.
Trump being Trump there had to be a slightly embarrassing moment when he came out with some heavy-handed compliments about what ‘good shape’ Brigitte Macron was in and allegedly held her hands longer than a lady would wish. But nobody really cared although there was much tut tutting about it in the media. In truth, the very shrewd Trump knows exactly what he is doing hamming it up for the gallery. In reality, watching the full television coverage what is noticeable is how comfortable and presidential Trump is with the big occasion. If there was an element of comedy it was in watching the burly American President inspecting the guard of honor alongside the dainty little Frenchman.
The young inexperienced Macron is losing no time in building up his credibility in the area where it is most lacking – international relations. He persuaded Vladimir Putin to visit him for the anniversary of Peter the Great’s visit to Paris and now Donald Trump has come for the centenary of the timely arrival of American troops in the First World War. The visit was also something of an antidote to the French President’s inevitably somewhat anonymous performance at the G20 amongst world leaders. The diplomatic cherry on the cake for him was that he was able to announce during the press conference that he is to visit China in the new year.
Trump diplomatically let drop that he might review his position on withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords or then again, he might not. He might… but I wouldn’t put money on it.
Macron reaffirmed the change in French diplomatic doctrine in that the replacement of Bachar al Assad in Syria is no longer the main French aim there, whereas dealing with the terrorism is. French victims of terrorism will be relieved to hear it. He justified this by pointing out that ‘it is now nearly seven years since we closed our embassy in Damascus and that has been totally ineffective.’ It is the triumph of a school of thought in French diplomacy that was completely ignored under his predecessors Hollande and Sarkozy. He was however quick to repeat his slightly ridiculous ‘red lines’ in regard to chemical attacks and humanitarian corridors. This has become a sort of ritual genuflection in the direction of the neo-cons both in the US and Europe.
Trump reaffirmed his dislike of bureaucrats and regulations, the US ‘did not become a great nation by imposing regulations’ he said. Macron went some way with him in this in urging anti-dumping moves or what his much-derided opponent in the presidential elections Marine Le Pen would call ‘intelligent protection’.
Apart from image building for domestic consumption Macron will have been hoping to reinforce France’s role as an essential partner for the US in the EU now that Britain is leaving.
That apart it was all parades with US troops taking part and dinner at the Eiffel Tower. Macron will no doubt now be looking forward to a high-profile return visit to Washington.
Interestingly an opinion poll showed that 61% of French people approved of the visit. There were anti-Trump demonstrations but it is quite a contrast with Britain where there were genuine fears the risk to public order if Trump was received by Theresa May and a potential visit was delayed.