How The French View Macron's U.S. Visit With President Trump

Apr 23, 2018
Originally published on April 23, 2018 8:28 pm
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Let's get the view from France now on French president Emmanuel Macron's state visit to Washington. Nicole Bacharan, a researcher with the National Foundation for Political Sciences in Paris, joins us via FaceTime. Welcome.

NICOLE BACHARAN: Thank you.

CHANG: So what do people there in France make of the relationship between President Trump and Macron?

BACHARAN: We're actually quite fascinated. And, you know, this state visit is really a big deal, so everybody's kind of watching it. President Trump is not popular in France.

CHANG: Right.

BACHARAN: He's not popular in Western Europe, but still, there is a sense that our president, Emmanuel Macron, must work with him - must keep Donald Trump within the realm of leaders he can talk to, he can work with. And it seems to me that overall, people think it's a good thing if a working relationship can be established.

CHANG: Let me - let me try to understand this. As you say, Trump is unpopular in France, but Macron is also dealing with his own unpopularity in France right now, right? So what are people looking for from Macron during this visit? What does he have to do to make the people in France feel that this visit was a win?

BACHARAN: Well, I think behind all the ceremony and all the glory that, you know, surrounds such trips, and that would definitely give Emmanuel Macron a boost in terms of his stature, of his prestige. He needs to have something to show for when he comes back.

CHANG: Like what?

BACHARAN: And nobody expects huge definitive announcements about the big issues that are going to be discussed, but Emmanuel Macron at least needs to come back with some openings - some sign that there will be a further negotiation.

And, of course, I'm thinking about, you know, the future of Syria and the involvement of France and the United States. I'm thinking about the trade issues. As you know, the exemptions for the European Union system of trade expire on May 1, so that's really, really fast. And the Iran deal may or may not be certified by President Trump on May 12. And Iran is definitely the trickiest issue.

CHANG: What leverage does Macron have over this relationship with Trump, do you think?

BACHARAN: I think Trump and Macron need each other. Macron has become - because, you know, Theresa May is more or less out of the game, Angela Merkel is weaker than she used to be, Macron has become, like, the face of European diplomacy - of Western diplomacy almost. But, you know, his voice and his vision have not much weight if he doesn't have the support of the United States.

And on the other hand, Donald Trump has in Macron a partner who recognizes him, welcomes him, who doesn't lecture him and who's not afraid of him, which is important, too. So Macron is like an open door to Europe for Donald Trump. And on the other hand, Macron needs the support of his partner across the Atlantic for many, many of these projects.

CHANG: Nicole Bacharan is a researcher with the National Foundation for Political Sciences in Paris. Thank you very much for joining us.

BACHARAN: Thanks to you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.