US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron had a much-anticipated meeting of the minds on Thursday to discuss a number of pressing issues affecting the relationship between their respective countries. Both leaders seemed at odds over certain policies the United States has enacted, but after the conference was concluded, they indicated that they had come to an understanding.
Prelude to Dinner
Much of the disagreement between Biden and Macron is related to the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and other policies ostensibly designed to ease the economic burdens Americans are facing. The French president criticized the legislation, which was loaded in part with provisions designed to stave off the impact of climate change. He took issue with the fact that the law’s subsidies apply only to electric vehicles manufactured in the US, which means European nations are at a disadvantage.
While giving remarks at the French embassy the night before the meeting, Macron acknowledged the “challenges” related to the relationship between the US and France as European nations continue to suffer from the effects of the war in Ukraine. “Above all,” he said, “the choices made, whose objectives I share – in particular, the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS Act – are choices that will fragment the West because they create such differences between the United States and Europe.”
Macron added: “These choices can only work if there is a coordination between us; if we decide together – if we resynchronize.” On the other side of the debate, American officials argued that “incentives to encourage domestic battery production are a matter of economic security that will ultimately benefit allies of the United States.”
During the New York Times DealBook Summit on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen lauded the Inflation Reduction Act, noting that the US is “highly dependent on China for most of the minerals that go into making batteries,” insisting that the objective “is to have more adequate supply chains among our friends, our trading partners.”
Did Biden and Macron Come to an Understanding?
Despite their differences, Biden and Macron struck a hopeful tone after the meeting was concluded. In a joint news conference, Macron heaped praise on the working group and indicated that the two leaders would be collaborating to create a compromise that works for both countries. “We also had an excellent discussion on the IRA and the recent pieces of legislation adopted by the American administration, and like President Biden just said, we agreed to resynchronize our approaches – our agendas – in order to invest in critical emerging industries.”
The French president also explained that they “share the same vision and the same willingness,” and that they “tasked our teams to continue this work in close cooperation [and] coordination to find solutions.”
Biden echoed his counterpart’s sentiments, explaining that they had “a detailed discussion of the Inflation Reduction Act” and that they “agreed to discuss practical steps to coordinate and align our approaches so that we can strengthen to secure [sic] the supply chain manufacturing and innovation on both sides of the Atlantic.” The American president also acknowledged that there were “some glitches” in the Inflation Reduction Act that might need to be addressed going forward.
The two leaders did diverge on one issue: Russia. The American president said he “has no immediate plans” to reach out to Russian President Vladimir Putin, but he is willing to engage if Putin is seeking an end to the war. “He’s just miscalculated across the board,” Biden said, “and so the question is … how does he get himself out of the circumstance he’s in? I’m prepared, if he’s willing to talk, to find out what he’s willing to do, but I’ll only do it in consultation with my NATO allies. I’m not going to do it on my own.”
Macron said during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he was planning to speak with Putin soon but noted that he would only do so when Ukraine sets conditions for a peace agreement. While the tone of the event was positive, addressing the rift between the US and France on this issue might not be quite as easy as the leaders made it sound.
Biden is still dealing with inflation, which has made life more challenging for ordinary Americans. Making it easier for foreign companies to compete with American manufacturers might not exactly sit well with the populace, and Republicans will be sure to pounce on that particular issue. But if the outcome of the dinner is any indication, it appears relations between the US and France might be on the mend.
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