Macron and Trump: ‘frenemies’ in open disagreement

Macron and Trump had held several phone calls during which they rebuilt a relationship that had started surprisingly well after Macron’s election in 2017. (File/AFP)
Updated 06 June 2019

Macron and Trump: ‘frenemies’ in open disagreement

  • The two leaders will meet at the Colleville-sur-Mer American cemetery in northern France and then sit down for a working lunch in the town of Caen
  • Macron and Trump had held several phone calls during which they rebuilt a relationship that had started surprisingly well after Macron’s election in 2017

PARIS: The last time French President Emmanuel Macron hosted Donald Trump in France, it turned into a diplomatic fiasco which underlined how once warm relations between the men had chilled to the point of freezing.
As the two men prepare to hold talks on Thursday on the sidelines of D-Day commemorations, Macron and French diplomats are hoping for a smoother run.
Trump’s trip in November last year for the 100-year anniversary of the end of World War I culminated in a hail of bad-tempered tweeting caused by the US president’s bruised ego, a French diplomat told AFP.
During a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe, with Trump seated among 70 leaders in the French capital, Macron delivered a speech that included an open rebuke of his brand of “America First” nationalism.
“Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism,” the 41-year-old centrist French leader said in a 20-minute address that also criticized “saying our interests come first and others don’t matter.”
The diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the US real estate mogul had been angered by those lines and was also frustrated when a planned trip to an American military cemetery by helicopter was canceled due to bad weather.
“There was also the sense that he came and he was one among other leaders and not THE leader who would make the big speech,” the diplomat explained. “It was a difficult period to manage.”
Two days after leaving the French capital, Trump let his fury known, mocking Macron for his “very low approval ratings” and writing how the French “were starting to learn German in Paris before the US came along” in World War II.
The US role in liberating France will be commemorated on Thursday by Trump and Macron on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings when 150,000 Allied troops began an invasion of Nazi-ruled France.
The two leaders will meet at the Colleville-sur-Mer American cemetery in northern France and then sit down for a working lunch in the town of Caen.
Their wives Melania and Brigitte, who have reportedly struck up a warm relationship, are to lunch together separately.
The French diplomat said that after the open hostilities in November, Macron and Trump had held several phone calls during which they rebuilt a relationship that had started surprisingly well after Macron’s election in 2017.
The US president was made a guest of honor of France’s National Day in July of that year and the two men referred to each other as “friends” and repeatedly patted each other on the back. The visit ended with a 25-second-long handshake.
“The relationship is still warm and direct,” the diplomat said. “Our approach has stayed the same: we continue to try to persuade and at the same time to cushion the impact when we haven’t succeeded.”
The problem for Macron is that his successes in persuading Trump and changing his thinking are few and far between, while the policy disagreements and gap between their visions of the world are becoming ever more glaring.
“Macron is not shy about saying the problem in the world is the populist nationalist movement,” Trump’s one-time adviser and campaign manager Steve Bannon told AFP in a recent interview.
“Macron is always looking to take a shot at the nationalists and I think sometimes he’s done it in inappropriate situations,” he added, saying that Trump in his view had been “very magnanimous” given the criticism.
He also recalled Macron’s speech to the US Congress in Washington in April last year, which he said included “several nasty lines” about the dangers of nationalism and isolationism.
The French leader, sometimes described as an “anti-Trump” on the world stage, has been a vocal critic of unilateral US decisions to pull out of the 2015 deal governing Iran’s nuclear program and the Paris climate accord.
On Monday, he again condemned Trump’s trade policies, which have led to tariffs on European steel and aluminum imports and a growing trade war with China.
“With the US, we have discussions because they decide to put tariffs with unreasonable scenarios and argumentation,” Macron told global bankers in Paris in comments delivered in English.
Macron also knows that being critical of the American president plays well domestically in France where Trump is widely unpopular.
A poll by the YouGov survey group released on Wednesday showed that only 17 percent of French people had a positive view of the former reality TV star.
And only 24 percent thought Macron should take a more cooperative approach with him.
“With every American administration, there are things we disagree on, different interests, but we express ourselves clearly,” a second French diplomatic source said.
A sign of how far the Trump-Macron relationship has turned comes from the front garden of the White House.
When Macron visited for a state visit in April 2018, still hoping to persuade Trump to respect the Iran nuclear deal and drop tariffs on European steel imports, the two leaders planted an oak tree together.
The sapling, taken from a battlefield in France where US soldiers had fought in World War I, has since withered and died, Le Monde newspaper reported Wednesday.


Sunny weather tempts Europe; UK queen urges self-discipline

Updated 51 min 54 sec ago

Sunny weather tempts Europe; UK queen urges self-discipline

LONDON: As warm, sunny weather beckoned across Europe, Queen Elizabeth II appealed to Britons on Sunday to exercise self-discipline in “an increasingly challenging time” as the country saw a record 24-hour jump in coronavirus deaths that even outpaced the daily toll in hard-hit Italy.
Britain recorded 708 new coronavirus deaths Saturday while Italy reported 631 deaths that day. With 621 more deaths reported on Sunday, Britain has 4,934 virus deaths overall among 47, 806 cases. Those coming down with the virus in the UK include Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the health secretary, England’s chief medical official and Prince Charles, heir to the British throne.
There are wide fears that Johnson’s Conservative government did not take the virus seriously enough at first and that beautiful spring weather will tempt Britons and others to break social distancing rules.
In an address to the nation to be televised later Sunday, the 93-year-old queen said the pandemic had caused enormous disruptions, bringing grief, financial difficulties and daunting challenges to everybody. It is only the fourth time since her reign began in 1953 that she has given such an address.
“I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge,” she said in pre-released remarks. “And those who come after us will say that the Britons of this generation were as strong as any.”
The queen’s son, Charles, on Friday remotely opened a vast temporary hospital for corona patients in a London convention center after completing a week of isolation. Johnson still had a fever Friday but his infected pregnant fiancee, Carrie Symonds, tweeted she is “on the mend” after a week in bed.
As the sun shone and the temperatures rose toward 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit), Health Secretary Matt Hancock said sunbathing in public places was not allowed and the UK might even ban outdoor exercise if people still ‘’flout the rules.”
“The vast majority of people are following the public health advice, which is absolutely critical, and staying at home,” Hancock told Sky TV. “But there are a small minority of people who are still not doing that — it’s quite unbelievable, frankly, to see that.”
As the numbers of infections rose, the deputy head of Britain’s National Health Service Providers said the agency needs to focus on quickly increasing ventilator capacity and getting more protective equipment for health care workers.
“I think that we are just a week away from the surge of this,’’ Saffron Cordery told Sky TV.
Restrictions on movement vary from country to country. In Germany and Britain, residents can get out to exercise and walk their dogs, as well as go to the supermarket, the post office and other essential tasks. Yet in Serbia and South Africa, dog walking is not allowed.
In France, heat-seeking drones have been whizzing over Fontainebleau forest to identify rule-breakers after the former royal estate in the Paris suburbs was closed to the public. That high-tech measure has been coupled with more traditional police patrols on horseback and roadblocks that turn back the cars of those seeking to escape urban areas.
In Sweden, authorities have advised the public to practice social distancing, but schools, bars and restaurants are still open.
At the Vatican, Pope Francis celebrated Mass and blessed palms for Palm Sunday in a near-empty St. Peter’s Basilica. Usually tens of thousands of faithful would have crowded the square outside to attend a papal Mass.
Holy Thursday and Easter services will beheld the same way. In the pope’s native Argentina, the faithful were using plants at home for a “virtual” blessing during a livestream of the Palm Sunday service.
Italians have not been immune to lure of the good weather either, even though the country has the world’s highest coronavirus death toll at more than 15,000.
Top Italian officials took to national television after photos were published showing huge crowds out shopping in Naples, Rome, Genoa and even the hard-hit Veneto city of Padua. Lombardy vice governor Fabrizio Sala said cellphone date showed 38% of the region’s people were out and about — the highest figure since March 20.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza told RAI state television that all the sacrifices Italians have made since the nationwide lockdown began on March 10 risked being reversed.
As deaths and infections soared across the United States, new infections were slowing in Italy and Spain. Rome’s main hospital for coronavirus infections reported that, for the first time since Italy’s outbreak began, more patients were discharged than admitted.
Spain announced 6,023 confirmed new infections Sunday, taking its national tally to 130,759 but down from an increase of 7,026 infections in the previous day. Spain’s confirmed new virus deaths dropped for the third straight day, to 674 — the first time daily deaths have fallen below 800 in the past week.
“We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.
At week when millions of Spaniards typically go on holiday, data suggested most were following lockdown regulations. Transport authorities on Sunday reported an 85% decrease in long-distance public transport and an 80% drop in the use of private vehicles compared to a normal day.
Worldwide, more than 1.2 million people have been confirmed infected and more than 65,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. The true numbers are certainly much higher, due to limited testing, different ways nations count the dead and deliberate under-reporting by some governments.
Almost 250,000 people have recovered from the virus, which is spread by microscopic droplets from coughs or sneezes. The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most but for some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia and lead to death. The World Health Organization says 95% of the known coronavirus deaths in Europe have been in people over 60.
The rapid spread of the virus in the United States has prompted a chaotic scramble for desperately needed medical equipment and protective gear, prompting intense squabbling between the states and the federal government.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised China for sending 1,000 ventilators, while President Donald Trump claimed that states are making inflated requests for supplies. In mixed messages, Trump warned that the country could be headed into its toughest weeks yet and see many deaths but also said he’s eager to get the US economy back on track.
The number of people infected in the US has soared to more than 312,000 as the fatalities climbed past 8,500.
New York City is the epicenter of the US outbreak but more than 400 people have also died in Louisiana, where state authorities have been rushing to find ventilators. Michigan has more than 14,000 infections and 500 deaths, mainly in Detroit.
Beijing authorities said Sunday about 78,000 people had visited cemeteries in the Chinese capital for annual “tomb-sweeping” ceremonies, down 90% over last year. Thousands of others paid their respects through an online portal that allowed them to light a candle, burn incense and offer wine and flowers, all virtually.

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