President Biden acknowledged there were “mistakes” in his signed climate bill that hurt America’s European allies, but refused to apologize for the administration’s support for American manufacturers.
“The United States makes no apologies and I make no apologies as I wrote the law we are talking about,” Biden said Thursday during a White House press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron. “There are tweaks we can make to make it much easier for European countries to get involved and/or be self-sufficient.”
The president welcomed Macron for a diplomatic spectacle that included a 21-gun salute during the morning ceremony and a glitzy evening gala for more than 300 people on the South Lawn of the White House. Macron became the first foreign leader to make an official state visit to the United States since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased restrictions on the COVID-19 pandemic in August.
But before Biden and Macron sat down to Maine lobster and American wine and cheese, the two presidents tried to sort out the biggest problems facing Washington’s oldest alliance, including securing continued European support for the war in Ukraine, managing competition between the US and China. on trade and security, curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and addressing brewing trade tensions over the Biden Inflation Reduction Act.
The law includes $369 billion in clean energy subsidies and encourages Americans to buy electric cars made in North America, a provision that has irritated European leaders who say it will hurt their economy, which is already recovering from the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The subsidy includes a tax credit of up to $7,500 on an electric vehicle that is assembled in North America or includes key components made domestically. Consumers purchasing used domestically produced electric vehicles can receive tax credits of up to $4,000.
White House officials say the climate bill is designed to help the US achieve its climate goals and benefit the global green energy industry. National Security Council spokesman John F. Kirby on Wednesday acknowledged that Europeans are concerned about the law, but said it “lays the groundwork” for global investment opportunities in clean energy technologies and initiatives that benefit everyone.
Since his arrival in Washington on Tuesday, Macron has made it clear that he does not share this view. The French president sharply criticized Biden’s “buy American” policy at a congressional dinner and in a speech at the French embassy on Wednesday, arguing that climate change measures and a law to boost domestic semiconductor production “split the West.”
Macron spoke more conciliatory during a press conference on Thursday, telling reporters that he understood that the US could not pass a law to solve Europe’s problems. The two leaders agreed to harmonize their approach to clean energy, he said, to ensure that the new climate law does not harm the European economy.
Biden has staked his presidential legacy on resurrecting US leadership abroad. But it remains constrained by domestic problems, including record high inflation and supply chain disruptions exacerbated by the pandemic and the war with Ukraine. Because of this pressure, Biden is reluctant to abandon policies that Macron and other European officials see as protectionist.
The “Buy American” clauses opposed by the French are “extremely popular” with a wide range of key American swing voters, including working-class, older Americans and independent men, said Celinda Lake, a seasoned Democratic pollster who remains close to Whites. House. She told The Times that voters generally support lawmakers who are pushing “buy American” policies, including Democratic Senator-elect John Vetterman, who successfully flipped a vacant Senate seat from Pennsylvania in November.
The dispute over climate legislation echoes France’s anger last year over the Biden administration’s deal to sell nuclear submarines to Australia. The deal effectively thwarted France’s earlier plans to sell conventional diesel submarines to Australia.
France then said that the deal stunned her. The UK joined the US in planned sales. The Macron government went so far as to briefly recall its ambassador from Washington, which was virtually unheard of among the allies.
While tensions and a degree of mistrust persist, both governments eventually calmed the situation, with Biden acknowledging that his administration’s actions
the deal was “clumsy”.
In the months since the scandal, Biden and Macron have become friends. After the resignation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Macron became one of the most prominent figures in Europe and Biden’s strongest foreign ally. But he also expressed a desire for greater independence from the US as Europe deals with rising energy prices and the economic fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The US and France “do have overlapping goals, but their approach to achieving those goals can be different,” said Mathieu Drouin, a visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which focuses on transatlantic European security and defense. “If we are together in systematic competition with China and others, we must ensure that our programs complement each other and do not come at the expense of others.”
Trade disputes aside, Biden and Macron have reaffirmed their transatlantic ties by maintaining support for Ukraine more than nine months after the Russian invasion. On Wednesday, the French president met with lawmakers to back Biden’s request for more than $37 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine. Republicans who are going to take control of the House of Representatives, accepted the idea to stop US funding for the war.
While Biden and Macron have shown a united front in helping Ukraine fight Russian forces, they have at times disagreed on how to end the war. Macron faced backlash for his willingness to involve Russian President Vladimir Putin in the talks, but vowed that peace could not be achieved without Ukraine’s participation.
Biden said he has no plans to speak to Putin anytime soon, but would be willing to do so if the Russian president is interested in negotiating an end to the war. So far, Biden says he sees no sign of the war easing.
Macron’s three-day visit also included a stop at NASA headquarters in Washington with Vice President Kamala Harris, where they talked about partnerships in space. The US joined the French Space Climate Observatory and Paris signed the US-led Artemis Accords, a set of guidelines for cooperation in space.
Macron and his wife Bridget also visited Arlington National Cemetery and dined with Biden and First Lady Jill Biden at an Italian restaurant on the banks of the Potomac River in Georgetown. Prior to Thursday’s dinner, the French president also attended a State Department lunch hosted by Harris.
Macron gave Biden a vinyl and CD of the original soundtrack to the 1966 French film A Man and a Woman. According to the Elysee Palace, the Bidens saw the film on their first date. Jill Biden, who, like Macron’s wife, is a teacher, received copies of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Albert Camus’ Plague, Fall, Exile and Kingdom and Selected Essays. Meanwhile, the Bidens gave the Macrons a mirror made from a fallen tree from the White House grounds, designed by an American furniture maker.
The trip marks the second time Macron has been honored with an official visit to the White House. When President Trump welcome Macron in April 2018, the French president tried to use his fleeting bromine with Trump to save the 2015 multinational Iran nuclear deal. Although Macron failed, the high-profile invitations from the two US presidents show the importance of the alliance, Drouant said.
Before meeting with Biden in the Oval Office, Macron stressed that close Franco-American coordination would be needed to resolve the economic turmoil caused by the war in Ukraine. He was sure he would get it.
“This friendship has always prevailed – by the way, with good results,” he said.