Emmanuel Macron to use US visit to highlight Ukraine war’s economic toll on EU

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Emmanuel Macron will appeal to Joe Biden to take greater account of the damage done to Europe’s economy by the war in Ukraine in his policy decisions, saying the EU and US need to collaborate more to manage the impact of the conflict and co-ordinate policies towards China.

According to the Élysée Palace, the French president will deliver the message when he is hosted from Wednesday by Biden on a three-day state visit — the first of Biden’s presidency and Macron’s second, having been invited by Donald Trump in 2018.

While the White House and the Elysée emphasised the close ties between the US and France 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.

The war is exacting a heavier economic toll on Europe than the US because of spiralling energy prices caused by Russian export cuts, while EU officials say Biden’s $369bn package of green subsidies threatens the bloc’s industry.

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

Macron has criticised the green package, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, and voiced irritation at the US selling natural gas to Europe at inflated prices. Such behaviour “does not conform with 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, said on Monday that the Biden administration would discuss France’s concerns about the legislation with Macron. “We want to understand the concerns. We’re absolutely willing to have that conversation and to find a way to work through those issues of concern,” he said.

“But it’s not a zero-sum game . . . Clean energy, that’s a tide that raises all boats, the more we can transition to a clean energy economy around the world,” he added. “And there’s plenty of opportunity for everybody in that.”

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.

Asked what Macron would try to achieve with regards to the IRA on behalf of the EU, the official declined to give details.

Gérard Araud, French ambassador to the US from 2014 to 2019, said it would be difficult for Macron to make much progress on the IRA or energy prices, but the visit would be an important diplomatic moment nonetheless.

“A state visit is all pomp and circumstance, but it also signals how the US sees France as a key partner in Europe,” he said. “With the UK no longer in the EU and Germany more focused internally, Macron is an important interlocutor for the Americans as they continue to support Ukraine while looking for ways to bring the war to an end.”

According to French and US officials, Macron and Biden will discuss how to manage the challenges ahead in Ukraine, including sending additional military and civilian aid and avoiding any escalation with Russia. Both countries have said only Kyiv can decide if and when to negotiate with Moscow and that Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected.

Macron’s efforts to keep a diplomatic channel open to Russian president Vladimir Putin as well as his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, are seen as helpful by Washington, according to one US official.

“The war in Ukraine has led the US to take more seriously the partnership between China and Russia, so they want to counter it with better alliances globally,” said Maya Kandel, a specialist in US affairs at New Sorbonne University Paris 3. “The Biden administration wants Europe to be stronger, and France is a key part of that.”

The meeting 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 nuclear 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.

Nicole Bacharan, a political scientist at Sciences Po university, said the spat had left scars in Paris but the two allies had little choice but to reconcile given the Ukraine conflict. “On the war, the US and France are fundamentally on the same line,” she said.

Additional reporting by Aime Williams and Felicia Schwartz in Washington

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