Biden, Macron close ranks on Russia during state visit

US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron shake hands after a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on December 1, 2022. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

Washington, United States -- US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron emerged from White House talks Thursday pledging to close ranks in helping Ukraine and pressuring Russia's Vladimir Putin to make peace.

Following lengthy Oval Office talks they also signalled they'd calmed the waters on a burgeoning transatlantic trade dispute.

Addressing a joint press conference on the second day of Macron's rare state visit to Washington, both leaders emphasized the strength of their diplomatic and military alliance in facing Russia -- as well as a rising China.

"We reaffirm that France and the United States together, with all our NATO allies and the European Union and the G7, stand as strong as ever against Russia's brutal war against Ukraine," Biden said.

The US leader said that he would be ready to meet with Putin but only "if he is looking for a way to end the war."

It was Biden's strongest suggestion so far that he would be prepared to sit down with Putin, but Macron said they both agreed "we will never urge the Ukrainians to make a compromise that will not be acceptable for them."

- Trade dispute -

A growing dispute over US subsidies for the emerging green technology economy had threatened to spoil Macron's state visit -- the first such formal occasion since Biden took office.

However, both leaders signaled they had managed at least to defuse the row following their one hour and 45 minute talks in the Oval Office.

"We agreed to discuss practical steps to coordinate and align our approaches so that we can strengthen and secure the supply chains, manufacturing and innovation on both sides of the Atlantic," Biden told their joint news conference.

"We agreed to resynchronize our approaches," echoed Macron.

The issue revolves around Biden's signature policy, the Inflation Reduction Act or IRA, which is set to pour billions of dollars into environmentally friendly industries, with strong backing for US-based manufacturers.

European Union governments have been crying foul, threatening to launch a trade war by subsidizing their own green economy sector.

Biden stressed that there would be "tweaks" so that European companies were not unfairly treated.

"We're going to continue to create manufacturing jobs in America but not at the expense of Europe," Biden said.

On China, another area where Europe and the United States have not always been entirely on the same page, the leaders said in a joint statement they "will continue to coordinate on our concerns regarding China's challenge to the rules-based international order, including respect for human rights, and to work together with China on important global issues like climate change."

- 21 gun salute -

A full military honor guard, including service members from the marines, army, air force and even a detachment of soldiers in 18th-century Revolutionary War garb, met Macron outside the White House early Thursday. Artillery fired off a 21-gun salute, sending puffs of white smoke into the clear, chilly December sky.

Standing on a red-carpeted podium with Macron, Biden said "France is our oldest ally, our unwavering partner in freedom's cause."

And Macron, referring to past wars where their troops fought side by side, as well as today's struggle in Ukraine, said, "We need to become brothers in arms once more."

Between the two leaders, the mutual appreciation was on ample display as they exchanged hugs, hand clasps and compliments throughout the day.

And the visit certainly symbolized how Washington and Paris have buried last year's bitter spat over the way Australia pulled out of a French submarine deal in favor of acquiring US nuclear subs instead.

The state visit was to climax late Thursday with the kind of banquet that has not been seen in the US capital since the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the capital's typically busy schmoozing scene.

Grammy-award-winning American musician Jon Batiste will perform at the dinner, 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.

Washing all that down will be three different wines -- all from US vineyards.

© Agence France-Presse

Related Articles