The core issues at stake as Trump plans to meet Macron
Ulrich Baumgarten via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Trump will reemerge in public Wednesday evening for the first time since Saturday as he heads to Paris to celebrate Bastille Day.
It’s his third trip abroad as president, and despite its brevity, it is an important one. As Trump celebrates America’s oldest ally’s most important national holiday, he will also face an array of tough issues.
Trump lands in Paris Thursday morning, where he will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron, hold a joint press conference, and attend Bastille Day festivities that also commemorate the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entering World War I and feature American troops.
Here’s what you need to know:
As President Trump was returning from the G-20 summit in Germany last weekend, news was breaking back home of his son Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer. When he arrived at the White House, he smiled and waved at reporters, but said nothing. Since then, he has not held any public events.
That means that his press conference alongside President Macron will be the first time he faces cameras and takes questions about that meeting and much more. His and his inner circle’s alleged ties to Russia have dogged his presidency since the start, and with a Justice Department and two Congressional investigations, even a trip overseas won’t bring reprieve.
Trump’s position on Putin may also face scrutiny from the French press — and the French leader. While Trump wants to work with Putin and has not criticized his rule of Russia, Macron has had a more muscular approach to Russia, criticizing its support for the Assad regime in Syria and its treatment of gay men and trans people in Chechnya. Macron may try to firm up Trump’s stance as Western powers seek solutions to the crisis in Ukraine and Syria where Russia has been heavily involved.
At their first one-on-one meeting, it was the handshake seen around the world — a six-second, iron-gripped shake with jaws clenched and faces tightened. Many took it as a sign of icy relations between the 71-year old American and the 39-year old Frenchman, who have different views on seemingly everything, especially after Trump praised Macron’s opponent Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election.
Macron has signaled that he doesn’t dwell on the past, so despite some awkwardness, deepening their relationship will be crucial for both during the brief trip. A senior Trump administration official said, “Their chemistry is quite positive and very good.”
While Macron will look to forge a stronger bond with Trump, there may be someone else who can’t: The city of Paris. Trump has insulted the city on a handful of occasions, often referring to his friend Jim who apparently no longer travels to the City of Lights after years of vacationing there.
“Paris is no longer Paris,” Trump said at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February. The comments had raised the ire of Paris’s mayor and France’s foreign minister in the past, and just 14% of France has confidence Trump would do the right thing in world affairs, according to Pew Research Center.
CLIMATE CHANGE & OTHER AREAS OF DISAGREEMENT
In terms of issues on the agenda, there is plenty for the two men to discuss, but no topic divides them more than climate change. The U.S. was ostracized from a G-20 statement expressing support for the Paris climate accord, but Macron may push to change Trump’s mind.
“Sometimes Trump makes decisions we don’t like, such as on climate, but we can deal with it in two ways: we can say, ‘We are not going to talk to you,’ or we can offer you our hand to bring you back into the circle,” government spokesman Christophe Castaner told French news channel LCI.
A senior administration official said it’s possible Macron will bring up the issue, “And if he does, the President has spoken on the issue a number of times, and he’ll be ready to engage on that as well.”
Climate change isn’t the only area of difference. Macron, an unapologetic globalist, doesn’t agree with Trump’s nationalist, anti-trade stance, and the young pro-European Union president differs with Trump’s closed borders, anti-refugee positions. It’s doubtful he can change Trump’s mind on anything, but they’ll likely take both issues head on.
COUNTERTERRORISM & OTHER AREAS OF AGREEMENT
One area where the two leaders will seek greater cooperation between their countries is counterterrorism efforts. France has been a key partner to the U.S.’s efforts to defeat ISIS and taken the lead on efforts to fight Islamist terrorism in Africa, with troops in Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mauritania.
A victim of several terrorist attacks itself, France also has close intelligence ties to the U.S. as both countries try to root out terror networks and prevent future plots on their soil.
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