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Biden, Macron close ranks on Russia during state visit

December 02, 2022

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron emerged from White House talks on 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 emphasised 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.

Condemning Russia’s “incredibly brutal” campaign, Biden said France and the United States will “continue the support for the people of Ukraine.”

And Biden said that he would be ready to meet with Putin but only “if he is looking for a way to end the war.”

In a joint statement, Biden and Macron underlined “their steadfast resolve to hold Russia to account for widely documented atrocities and war crimes.”

On China, they said, “The United States and France 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.”

They also expressed “respect for the Iranian people, in particular women and youth, who are bravely protesting to gain the freedom to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms, which Iran itself has subscribed to and is violating.”

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

However, both leaders signalled they have managed to defuse the row following their one hour and 45 minute talks.

“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 resynchronise 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.

The European Union governments have been crying foul, threatening to launch a trade war by subsidising 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.

A full military honour guard, including service members from the marines, army, air force and even a detachment of soldiers in the 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.”

The visit certainly symbolised how Washington and Paris have buried last year’s bitter spat over the way Australia pulled out of a French submarine deal in favour of acquiring US nuclear subs instead.

However, Macron made clear from the moment he hit the ground in Washington -- often using unusually blunt language -- that he wanted to confront Biden over the issue of trade.

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.