Thursday, February 22

Macron and Biden seek to “synchronize” relations between the EU and the US


Beyond the signs of friendship, the visit of the French president to Washington stands out for the French criticism of the US economic strategy for the future

Emmanuel Macron, next to Biden in the White House.ANDREW HARNIKAFP
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The staging of the Franco-American friendship is going to materialize tonight with four protagonists – the heads of state of both countries and their wives – and 400 guests at the White House. These are the figures of the State Dinner with which the White House is going to entertain the French president, Emmanuel Macron, during his visit to Washington. The state dinner – the first given by Biden since he was president – will close the state visit – which is the highest level of a trip by a foreign leader – by Macron to the US.

Preparing it had not been easy. Preparing the menu – which was to include 200 lobsters and 1,200 candies with the colors blue, red, and white, which form the flags of the two countries – has taken six months, in which the first lady of the United States, Jill Biden, was in charge of of the selection of wines. It remains to be seen now if we are going to have to wait six months for the problems that surfaced at the exaltation of friendship ceremony to be resolved, in which Macron threatened to break the unity of the West against China if not the European Union -that is, France- does not get a better treatment for its technology -especially in the field of renewable energy- in the United States.

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This was made clear on Wednesday afternoon by the French president in a statement made at the residence of the ambassador of that country in Washington. According to Macron, if the United States does not facilitate the export of products used in the generation of renewable energies -especially in everything that has to do with electric cars- and in microchips “The West is fragmenting”.

The French head of state even cited the names of the laws that he wants Biden to change. One is the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), passed in August. The sentence, the CHIPS Act, of September. The first is oriented to the energy transition in the United States. The second, to the manufacture of advanced microprocessors in that country, with the aim of reinforcing the US primacy over China in this field. Both favor companies, American or foreign that manufacture those products on US soil.

And that is what Macron does not want. The French president fears that French companies will invest in the United States in order to have access to the tax advantages and subsidies of both laws. Germany supports him, although with nuances, because Chancellor Olaf Scholz does not want to anger the United States at a time when Washington has provided approximately two thirds of all the economic and military aid that Ukraine has received to face the Russian invasion that began on February 24.

Macron, however, has not linked one thing with the other. And Biden’s response has been, at least in principle, conciliatory. On the one hand, the American president has affirmed that “The United States does not ask for forgivenessand I have not asked for forgiveness since I wrote [sic] the legislation we are talking about”. On the other hand, he has recognized that the rules have “failures”, and that the US and heThe EU needs to “re-synchronize” its legislation in terms of energy transition to avoid misunderstandings.

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Perhaps the first moment to start the “synchronization” will be on Monday, when a new meeting of the US-EU Trade and Technology Council established in 2021 is held, with the aim of coordinate transatlantic technology policy precisely to face competition from China. In any case, if coordinating the state dinner took six months, no one knows how long the negotiation on renewable energy and microprocessors may take, especially when the two laws that bother Macron so much have already been approved and, therefore, the only thing What can be done is to stretch the margins of application of what is provided for in them as much as possible.

In any casethe dispute reveals something that both Macron and Biden It will probably give them hives: the spirit of Donald Trump is alive. The two allies are squabbling over something that was considered as 20th-century as – no kidding – gas-powered cars: industrial politics. The US wants jobs and wants to maintain its technological primacy. And France wants more than maintain its technological primacy, because it has little left, if at least jobs. This was made clear by Macron himself before traveling to Washington when he said on Wednesday before a group of members of the National Assembly: “I have a middle class [que tiene que] work and people who have to find work. And the consequence of the IRA is that you [los estadounidenses] They can solve your problem but they will make mine worse.”

Apart from that disagreement, The US and France stressed their agreement on everything, although without going into details. Seamless support for Ukraine. And suspicion – yes, much greater in Washington than in Paris – in relation to China. Biden said that he is willing to talk to Vladimir Putin, but only if the Russian dictator is interested in ending the war, which at the moment is not the case. It’s a lot of state dinner, a lot of colorful candies, and a lot of lobsters, for so few results.

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