Amid the effects of the Ukraine war, France’s President Emmanuel Macron is set to ask his US counterpart Joe Biden to take greater account of the damage done to Europe’s economy, as Paris wants close collaboration between the EU and the US not only the conflict in Europe but also China.

The Financial Times and news agencies reported that Macron would arrive in Washington today (Wednesday) on a three-day state visit with the Élysée Palace saying that Macron deliver the message to Biden during his interactions.

US Duties

Earlier, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire had said that his country might try to negotiate some exemptions from the duties and limits imposed by the recent US anti-inflation legislation. However, he added that Europe must act to protect the bloc’s economic interests.

“France may ask for exemptions on some duties and limits imposed by the US administration. But the real question we must ask ourselves is what sort of globalization is ahead of us?” Le Maire told France 3 television.

“China favours Chinese production, America favours American production, it is time Europe favours European production. All European states must understand that today in the face of these American decisions, we must learn to better protect and defend our economic interests,” he added.

The European nation believe that the massive subsidy package to protect US manufacturers in the Inflation Reduction Act could deal a lethal blow to their industries, which are already reeling from high energy prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Macron has criticised the green package, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, and voiced irritation at the US selling liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe at inflated prices. Such behaviour “does not conform to World Trade Organization rules and it is not friendly”, Macron said this month, promising to bring up both issues on his trip.

John Kirby, spokesperson for the US National Security Council, on Monday said the Biden administration would discuss France’s worries about the legislation. “We’re absolutely willing to have that conversation and to find a way to work through those issues of concern,” he said.

But on Macron’s energy critique, US officials have been less conciliatory and rejected the idea that they are profiting off LNG exports to Europe. “The vast majority of US LNG is exported to Europe via transparent long-term contracts with foreign energy trading firms, including European companies,” said one administration official.

Strong Europe

Macron has long advocated for Europe to pursue more “strategic autonomy” in its economic and security affairs, and often warned of the risks of relying too much on the US if it were to take another isolationist turn.

“What we will tell the Americans is that in the current context, we need to be more robust together. And while we cannot have all the same policies on China, a resynchronisation is needed in our political agendas,” said an Elysée official.

Business leaders including EDF boss Luc Rémont, LVMH’s Bernard Arnault, telecoms entrepreneur Xavier Niel, TotalEnergies chief executive Patrick Pouyanné and shipping magnate Rodolphe Saadé are also part of the delegation accompanying Macron.

Although the White House and the Élysée emphasised the close ties between the two countries and agreement on big issues such as the war in Ukraine, both sides say there are economic and geopolitical tensions brewing that will not be easy to resolve.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced the Biden administration to refocus on Europe, but the US still sees countering China on economic competition and security as its main strategic priority.

AUKUS ramifications

The visit comes as the US steps up efforts to repair the relationship after France was left seething last year over its exclusion from the AUKUS security pact, aimed at countering Chinese power in the Indo-Pacific region. Australia cancelled a big submarine order from France’s Naval Group and opted instead for US-made vessels as part of the pact, which also includes the UK.

Macron accused the US of treachery and recalled the French ambassador. Biden admitted the US handling of the episode was “clumsy” at a joint meeting in Rome last October.


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