PARIS — The pomp and splendor of an official visit to Paris appeared to pay some dividends for French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday as his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump praised his host and even suggested some flexibility towards the Paris climate agreement.
Trump walked back comments from February in which he implied that the French capital was no longer safe due to the threat of terrorist attacks and quoted a friend saying that “Paris is no longer Paris.”
“You know what, it’s going to be all right, because you have a great president,” he said after talks with Macron in the Elysee Palace.
French and U.S. officials had both predicted that the meeting would focus largely on areas where the two would easily find common ground: the fight against terrorism and security issues in general.
Macron said French and U.S. authorities would “work together in the common weeks and months to have a robust action plan” on combating terrorism and in particular terrorist propaganda on the internet.
They would also work to establish a contact group of UN Security Council permanent members and regional states to develop a post-conflict road map for Syria, Macron said.
On free trade, where before his election Macron criticized Trump’s isolationist policies, it was the French president who offered a gesture towards his counterpart’s positions, saying the two countries would work together against unfair trade practices.
“We hope to be able to take concrete measures to work together to fight against dumping,” Macron announced.
They would aim to allow the U.S. and European Union “to protect, in a framework of free trade but fair free trade, all our sectors of activity and our workers.”
Macron acknowledged that the two leaders still did not see eye to eye on the Paris accord on limiting climate change, from which Trump withdrew the U.S. on June 1 prompting harsh European criticism.
“I respect the decision of President Trump,” Macron said, adding: “I remain attached to the Paris accord.”
But Trump hinted at a softening of his position, saying: “Something could happen with respect to the Paris accord.”
“We’ll see what happens, but we’ll talk about that over the coming period of time. If it happens it’ll be wonderful and if it doesn’t, that’ll be ok too,” the U.S. leader said.
The talks in the Elysee Palace came after an afternoon of high ceremony, with Macron receiving his U.S. counterpart under the gilded dome of the Hotel des Invalides where Napoleon Bonaparte is buried.
The ostensible occasion for the visit is the July 14 Bastille Day celebration, where this year U.S. troops will lead the military parade on the Champs-Elysees to mark the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I on France’s side.
Trump is due to take pride of place beside Macron on the reviewing stand, and he decribed it as “a wonderful national celebration… It’ll be spectacular.”
Macron greeted Trump warmly at the Invalides, without the apparent contest for dominance that marked their first handshake at the G-7 summit in Sicily last month.
Trump kissed Macron’s wife Brigitte on each cheek, and Macron greeted Trump’s wife Melania in the same way. The two first ladies also kissed.
The two presidents then stood together as a military band played the U.S. and French national anthems, before going inside the Invalides chapel.