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Biden to Host Macron in State Visit    11/29 06:14

   

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- French President Emmanuel Macron is headed to Washington 
for the first state visit of Joe Biden's presidency -- a revival of diplomatic 
pageantry that had been put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

   The Biden-Macron relationship had a choppy start. Macron briefly recalled 
France's ambassador to the United States last year after the White House 
announced a deal to sell nuclear submarines to Australia, undermining a 
contract for France to sell diesel-powered submarines.

   But the relationship has turned around with Macron emerging as one of 
Biden's most forward-facing European allies in the Western response to Russia's 
invasion of Ukraine. This week's visit -- it will include Oval Office talks, a 
glitzy dinner, a news conference and more -- comes at a critical moment for 
both leaders.

   The leaders have a long agenda for their Thursday meeting at the White 
House, including Iran's nuclear program, China's increasing assertiveness in 
the Indo-Pacific and growing concerns about security and stability in Africa's 
Sahel region, according to U.S. and French officials. But front and center 
during their Oval Office meeting will be Russia's war in Ukraine, as both Biden 
and Macron work to maintain economic and military support for Kyiv as it tries 
to repel Russian forces.

   In Washington, Republicans are set to take control of the House, where GOP 
leader Kevin McCarthy says Republicans will not write a "blank check" for 
Ukraine. Across the Atlantic, Macron's efforts to keep Europe united will be 
tested by the mounting costs of supporting Ukraine in the nine-month war and as 
Europe battles rising energy prices that threaten to derail the post-pandemic 
economic recovery.

   White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Monday 
described Macron as the "dynamic leader" of America's oldest ally while 
explaining Biden's decision to honor the French president with the first state 
visit of his presidency.

   The U.S. tradition of honoring foreign heads of state dates back to Ulysses 
S. Grant, who hosted King David Kalakaua of the Kingdom of Hawaii for a more 
than 20-course White House dinner, but the tradition has been on hold since 
2019 because of COVID-19 concerns.

   "If you look at what's going on in Ukraine, look at what's going on in the 
Indo Pacific and the tensions with China, France is really at the center of all 
those things," Kirby said. "And so the president felt that this was exactly the 
right and the most appropriate country to start with for state visits."

   Macron was also Republican Donald Trump's pick as the first foreign leader 
to be honored with a state visit during his term. The 2018 state visit included 
a jaunt by the two leaders to Mount Vernon, the Virginia estate of George 
Washington, America's founding president.

   Macron was scheduled to arrive in Washington on Tuesday evening ahead of a 
packed day of meetings and appearances in and around Washington on Wednesday -- 
including a visit to NASA headquarters with Vice President Kamala Harris and 
talks with Biden administration officials on nuclear energy.

   On Thursday, Macron will have his private meeting with Biden followed by a 
joint news conference and visits to the State Department and Capitol Hill 
before Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron, are feted at the state dinner. 
Grammy winner Jon Batiste is to provide the entertainment.

   Macron will head to New Orleans on Friday, where he is to announce plans to 
expand programming to support French language education in U.S. schools, 
according to French officials.

   For all of that, there are still areas of tension in the U.S.-French 
relationship.

   Biden has steered clear of embracing Macron's calls on Ukraine to resume 
peace talks with Russia, something Biden has repeatedly said is a decision 
solely in the hands of Ukraine's leadership.

   Perhaps more pressing are differences that France and other European Union 
leaders have raised about Biden's Inflation Reduction Act, sweeping legislation 
passed in August that includes historic spending on climate and energy 
initiatives. Macron and other leaders have been rankled by a provision in the 
bill that provides tax credits to consumers who buy electric vehicles 
manufactured in North America.

   The French president, in making his case against the subsidies, will 
underscore that it's crucial for "Europe, like the U.S., to come out stronger 
... not weaker" as the world emerges from the tumult of the pandemic and 
Russia's invasion of Ukraine, according to a senior French government official 
who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity to preview private talks.

   Macron earlier this month said the subsidies could upend the "level playing 
field" on trade with the EU and called aspects of the Biden legislation 
"unfriendly."

   The White House, meanwhile, plans to counter that the legislation goes a 
long way in helping the U.S. meet global efforts to curb climate change. The 
president and aides will also impress on the French that the legislation will 
also create new opportunities for French companies and others in Europe, 
according to a senior Biden administration official who briefed reporters on 
the condition of anonymity to preview the talks.

   Macron's visit comes about 14 months after the relationship hit its nadir 
after the U.S. announced its deal to sell nuclear submarines to Australia.

   After the announcement of the deal, which had been negotiated in secret, 
France briefly recalled its ambassador to Washington. A few weeks later Macron 
met Biden in Rome ahead of the Group of 20 summit, where the U.S. president 
sought to patch things up by acknowledging his administration had been "clumsy" 
in how it handled the issue.

   Macron's visit with Harris to NASA headquarters on Wednesday will offer the 
two countries a chance to spotlight their cooperation on space.

   France in June signed the Artemis Accords, a blueprint for space cooperation 
and supporting NASA's plans to return humans to the moon by 2024 and to launch 
a historic human mission to Mars.

   The same month, the U.S. joined a French initiative to develop new tools for 
adapting to climate change, the Space for Climate Observatory.

 
 
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