WASHINGTON — President Emmanuel Macron of France offered his own vision for a “21st-century world order” on Tuesday, highlighting the long friendship and shared values between his nation and the U.S. as the bedrock for a future sharply different from the one advocated by President Donald Trump.
On climate change, trade, foreign policy and Americas role in the world, Macron broke with positions long advocated by Trump, who hosted the French leader this week for the first official state visit of his administration. The apparent rebukes on policy from Macron followed two days of White House visits that highlighted the unlikely friendship between the two presidents, peppered with smiles, handshakes and hugs.
“We have to shape our common answers to the global threats that we are facing,” Macron said in his address to a joint meeting of Congress. “The only option, then, is to strengthen our cooperation. We can build the 21st-century world order based on a new breed of multilateralism. This requires, more than ever, the United States involvement, as your role was decisive for creating and safeguarding todays free world. The United States is the one who invented this multilateralism. You are the one now who has to help to preserve and reinvent it.”
Macron, speaking in English, described the alliance between the U.S. and France as a “very special relationship,” a characterization often applied to the alliance between the U.S. and Britain. He noted the historic ties between the two nations, remarking on the portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette, a hero of the American Revolution, hanging in the House chamber, and the presence in the House gallery of an American World War II veteran who fought at the D-Day invasion at Normandy.
The French president urged the U.S. not to abandon its prominent role on the world stage, warning that “all the powers with the strongest strategy and ambition” would rush to fill a void left by Western nations that turn to isolationism.
“These feelings do not build anything. You can play with fears and angers for a time, but they do not construct anything. Anger only freezes and weakens us,” Macron told the assembled members of Congress, a seeming rebuke of the type of rhetoric upon which Trump has often relied.
Acting out of “extreme nationalism,” Macron said, will only serve to weaken international institutions like the United Nations and NATO — two organizations Trump has previously been loudly critical of — and erode their “mandate and stabilizing influence” around the globe.
Macron also warned against erecting barriers to international trade that could ignite a “commercial war,” the brunt of which he predicted would be borne by the middle class in the form of higher prices and job loss.
Trump has complained often about trade imbalances, chiefly with China but also with allies including Mexico, Canada and the European Union. The solution for such concerns, Macron said, is not the imposition of tariffs, a step the president has taken and threatened to take again, but through the World Trade Organization.
“We wrote these rules,” he said. “We should follow them.”
Perhaps the highest-profile point of disagreement between Macron and Trump during this weeks visit has been the French presidents support for the Iran nuclear deal, an agreement that Trump has railed against and threatened to pull out of. Macron conceded that the deal was not perfect but argued that it would be foolish to pull out of an agreement that has thus far kept a lid on Irans nuclear program without something else to replace it.
He said France would not pull out of the agreement, “because we signed it,” and told U.S. lawmakers that “your president and your country will have to take in the current days and weeks its own responsibilities regarding this issue.” But he said he and Trump had agreed in their meetings to work on a more comprehensive deal that went beyond the scope of the current agreement to also include Iranian influence in the region and its nuclear program beyond the term of the current agreement.
Among Macrons most enthusiastic applause lines — albeit mostly from Democrats — came as he addressed climate change, another issue on which he has loudly differed with Trump. The French president said he was sure that the U.S. would one day rejoin a landmark international climate-change agreement reached in Paris in 2015, a deal that Trump pulled out of last June, declaring, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”
“I believe in building a better future for our children, which requires offering them a planet that is still habitable in 25 years,” Macron said. “Because what is the meaning of our life, really, if we work and live destroying the planet while sacrificing the future of our children? What is the meaning of our life if our decision, our conscious decision, is to reduce the opportunities for our children or grandchildren?”