President Joe Biden and his French counterpart, President Emmanuel Macron, presented a united front at the White House on Thursday morning despite recently frayed ties between the longtime allies amid disputes over economic and national security issues.
“Stalwart friends in times of triumph and of trial, France and the United States will meet the future just as we always have, confident in our shared capacity, sustained by the strength of our shared values and undaunted by any challenge that lies ahead,” Biden said during a welcoming ceremony at the White House for Macron and his wife.
Macron’s arrival marks the first state visit of Biden’s administration, coming at a time when the United States and France — one of its oldest allies — face simmering tensions over issues plaguing the world, including Russia’s war in Ukraine and trade policies.
Macron, during the pair’s bilateral meeting later Thursday, is expected to press Biden on the economic impacts of the now 10-month-long war in Ukraine — which has not only battered the global economy but also fueled an energy crisis in Europe. The French president and a number of other European leaders have recently shown some resistance to an expansion of the war and its inevitable economic toll on the continent.
In remarks from the Oval Office on Thursday just ahead of the bilateral meeting, the French president said Russia’s war on Ukraine “will be the first topic of discussion” for the two leaders.
“It’s extremely important to have close coordination between us on these different issues,” Macron said as he sat next to Biden. “We want to fix the direct and indirect consequences of the war on our economies and our people.”
Macron has openly accused the U.S. of using protectionist policies, with trade issues also expected to be a main topic of his and Biden’s bilateral meeting. The French president has specifically bristled against tax incentives for clean energy included in the Inflation Reduction Act — a move that European leaders fear could cause sectors of their own economies to shift operations to the United States.
“The choices made … are choices that will fragment the West because they create such differences between the U.S. and Europe, that those who work in these companies/industries will simply decide not to keep investing on the other side of the Atlantic,” Macron said during a speech at the French Embassy on Wednesday evening. “These choices can only work if there is coordination between us.”
The tensions were also stoked last year by what Biden has since acknowledged was a “clumsy” move that infuriated Paris. The Biden administration had rolled out an Indo-Pacific security pact in September 2021 among Australia, Britain and the U.S. — in which Australia reneged on a multibillion-dollar submarine supply deal with France to enter into the new pact with the U.S. and the U.K. France was less than thrilled with the deal, leading Biden to call Macron a week later to cool diplomatic tensions and concede that Washington should have consulted Paris on the so-called AUKUS agreement.
But during the ceremony on Thursday morning, both Biden and Macron largely expressed dedication to a united partnership between the two countries and to working together to solve global issues such as world hunger and climate change.
“It is our shared destiny to respond to those challenges together, true to our history … determined to generate hope,” Macron said. “Long live the friendship between the United States and France.”
They did, however, also both allude to the difficulties of solidifying Western unity amid growing global unrest. Biden pointed to both countries having to defend democratic values and universal human rights as they face down Russia’s brutal war on Ukraine, and Macron said the two democracies “are being shaken by the same doubts,” including climate issues, disinformation and hate speech.
“The choices we make today and the years ahead will determine the course of our world for decades to come,” Biden said. “And the United States could not ask for a better partner in this work in France.”
Following the pomp-filled welcome ceremony, Biden and Macron entered the White House for their bilateral meeting in the Oval Office. The two will host a news conference later in the morning, and the Bidens will host the Macrons for a state dinner Thursday evening.
Despite the differences the countries currently face, the two leaders on a personal level seem to have a good-natured relationship. Asked by a reporter following the welcoming ceremony on Thursday about why he chose Macron for his first state visit as president, Biden replied, “Because he is my friend.”
The Macrons and Bidens have also exchanged a number of sentimental gifts during the visit. One of Macron’s several gifts to the president and first lady included a vinyl and CD of the original soundtrack of the 1966 film “Un Homme et une Femme,” which is the film that the Bidens went to see on their first date. The Bidens’ official gift to Macron and his wife was a custom mirror made of fallen wood from the White House grounds, which is a reproduction of a mirror from the White House collection.