Macron hosts Biden for state visit as leaders try to move past trade tensions

8 June 2024, 13:04

Joe and Jill Biden and Emmanuel Macron at the Arc de Triomphe
Biden France. Picture: PA

The American President had attended ceremonies marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

US President Joe Biden is being feted by his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron with a state visit, as the two allies aim to show off their partnership on global security issues and move past trade tensions.

Mr Biden and Mr Macron attended ceremonies marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day on Thursday.

They met separately the following day with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Paris – engagements they both used to underline the urgent need to support Kyiv’s fight against Russia’s invasion.

Jill Biden and Brigitte Macron greet the crowds in Paris
First Lady Jill Biden Brigitte Macron greeted the crowds at the Elysee Palace in Paris (AP)

But Mr Macron and Mr Biden have often chafed at the pace of support for Ukraine, especially as the US – by far the largest contributor to Kyiv’s defence – was forced to pause aid shipments for months while congressional Republicans held up an assistance package.

The state visit began with a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe, including a wreath-laying at France’s tomb of the unknown soldier, and a military parade along the Champs-Elysees leading to the Elysee Palace, where the two will hold official meetings and deliver public statements.

Later, there is a state dinner at the palace for Mr Biden and his wife, Jill.

Joe Biden is escorted by a general
The US and French leaders will attempt to move past recent tensions, particularly involving trade (AP)

Mr Biden hosted Mr Macron in December 2022 at the White House for the first state visit of his presidency – a glamorous affair that included business and political figures after the Covid-19 pandemic.

First lady Jill Biden will join her husband for the Saturday events, returning to France aboard a government plane after spending Friday in Delaware to support their son, Hunter Biden, who is standing trial on federal gun charges.

Mr Biden’s trip to France also comes ahead of Sunday’s European Parliament election, in which the far right is likely to emerge as one of the biggest winners while Macron’s pro-EU movement is flagging.

The Macrons greet the Bidens on the red carpet
Mr Macron and his wife Brigitte welcomed the US President and first lady at the start of the state visit (AP)

A top French official said Mr Macron and Mr Biden have a friendly and warm relationship and stressed that the US President is spending five days in France, reflecting the importance he attaches to the visit.

The official said the US presidential campaign was not a factor in the discussion.

Mr Macron previously hosted then-President Donald Trump, the Republicans’ presumptive 2024 nominee, in France for Bastille Day in 2017, before being hosted himself by Mr Trump in 2018 for a state visit, before the two leaders’ relationship soured.

Joe Biden, his wife and the Macrons stand to attention before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The US leader will spend five days in France (AP)

Both US and French officials said Ukraine would be at the top of Saturday’s agenda, but the centrepiece of the weekend event would be the strength of the alliance, proven at Normandy 80 years ago, but with roots going far deeper.

“It’s probably a good thing for us to remember that we didn’t win our independence either without some foreign help or foreign assistance, specifically from France,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on Friday.

While praising the Biden administration’s commitment to supporting Ukraine, Mr Macron said earlier this year that Europe must become “capable of defending its interests, with its allies by our side whenever they are willing, and alone if necessary”, arguing the continent should rely less on the US for its own defence.

Biden and Macron applaud during D-Day commemorations
Mr Biden and Mr Macron sat side by side during Normandy commemorations (Jordan Pettitt/Pool)

He also warned Western powers against showing any signs of weakness to Russia as he repeatedly said that sending Western troops into Ukraine to shore up its defence should not be ruled out.

The two leaders were also set to discuss their efforts to bring about a ceasefire to the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, as the US and Israel await Hamas’ response to a Biden-promoted ceasefire proposal that would allow a surge of humanitarian assistance into Gaza.

Mr Macron is expected to raise US trade practices that he has often criticised, including the Inflation Reduction Act, which favours American-made climate technology, like electric vehicles.

The French leader said the US, like China, has “decided not to respect the rules of global trade” by shoring up protections and subsidies while Europe’s industry remains open and is stuck in overregulation.

The French top official said Europe has to defend European interests, after watching the US do the same with its own, but said Mr Macron hopes to find a mutually acceptable outcome.

By Press Association

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