President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, to the White House on April 23rd. The French President’s state visit marks the first of Trump’s administration. Macron also addressed a joint session from the House floor on Wednesday.
Macron and his wife, Brigitte, shortly after their arrival at the Blair House residence, took quickly to the streets of Washington, walking past the White House complex to the Lincoln Memorial and greeting tourists, according to Yahoo News.
Macron brought with him an oak tree sapling for planting on the South Lawn of the White House. The tree came from the Belleau Woods, site of a World War One battle in 1918 where 9,000 Americans died. Trump and Macron shoveled dirt on the freshly planted tree. “France is a very special country,” said Trump. “It’s a great honor.” Pictures taken by a Reuters photographer, Yuri Gripas, appeared to show that the tree planted vanished. The photographs showed only a yellow patch of grass in the spot on the White House grounds where the tree used to be.
Macron followed handshakes and hugs with Trump with a vicious attack on his policies in a speech to Congress. He strongly disagrees with the White House on the Iran nuclear deal and climate change, but sees France as a close ally of the U.S.
Regarding the purpose of his trip, Macron said “this visit is really important in our current context, with so many uncertainties, troubles and, at times, threats,” according to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). Specifically, the French president framed the visit as an opportunity to persuade the president to keep the U.S. in the Iranian nuclear agreement; which Trump pulled out of last year. But, at the White House on Monday, press secretary Sarah Sanders said that the visit was intended to “celebrate the long enduring friendship” between the two nations, WSJ reports.
Speaking to Congress, Macron said that one day, the U.S. will come back to the Paris agreement. “Let us face it. There is no planet B.” he continued, “I believe in building a planet for our children that is still inhabitable in 25 years. Some people think that securing industries and current jobs is more important than climate change … I hear this concern, but we must find a smooth transition,” CNN reported. Last year, Trump said of the U.S.
withdrawal that he was governed with an American First policy, and that he was carrying out the will of the voters who propelled him to the White House. “I was elected by the citizens of Pittsburgh,” Trump said, “not Paris.” Currently, the United States and Syria are the only countries in the world not in the agreement.
Trump and Macron also disagreed on the Iran deal, and it was a major point of discussion during their press conference at the White House. Trump has threatened to quit the Iran deal on May 12th, and may still do so. “This is a deal with decayed foundations. It’s a bad deal. It’s a bad structure. It’s falling down. It should have never, ever been made. I blame Congress. I blame a lot of people for it,” Trump said. “I will say, if Iran threatens us in any way, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid”, he added. Macron appealed to their diplomatic friendship, speaking alongside Trump, stating, “We’ve spent more than an hour, just the two of us — and had the conclusions been that the United States of America would walk away from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and France would not move, then our friendship would be wasted”, reported CNN. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on European leaders to support the agreement. “It is either all or nothing. European leaders should encourage Trump not just to stay in the nuclear deal, but more important to begin implementing his part of the bargain in good faith,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.
Overall, Macron’s meeting with Trump was a success of kind, according to Financial Times. Macron did not persuade Trump to rethink his policies. But he reaffirmed his personal relationship with Trump and the longtime alliance between France and the U.S. At the same time, Macron stood on his political stance, markedly different from Trump. Given Mr Trump’s treatment of other world leaders, this was no small achievement, reported Financial Times. Although, the French president returned to Paris with no deal on climate change or the Iran accords, globally, his visit was seen as a success.