Key points

During the presidential campaign, Emmanuel Macron stood out by promoting multilateralism and free trade. This was in complete opposition with President Donald Trump’s stance, as candidate Macron even obtained Barack Obama’s support.

Since his election, Emmanuel Macron has nevertheless built a special relationship with his American counterpart, illustrated by solemn invitations and frank dialogues in spite of unconcealed disagreements.

Facing a partisan of economic protectionism and American isolationism, Macron decided rather to promote a vision of a strong European Union which, in front of its American ally’s instability, needs to speak with a united voice.

France’s policy towards Canada is expected to carry on Emmanuel Macron’s predecessors’. The generational and ideological proximity of both heads of State has not led to any major turning point in their relationship nor to a closer cooperation.

Key dates

14 july 2017

Military parade on Bastille Day in the presence of Donald Trump

july 2017

16 april 2018 - 17 april 2018

Official visit from Justin Trudeau to France

april 2018

23 april 2018 - 25 april 2018

Emmanuel Macron visits Washington DC and addresses the American Congress

Campaign promises

During the presidential campaign, Emmanuel Macron sought to embody the position of a French version of Barack Obama, even obtaining his public support before the second round of the French election. As a result, the candidate was already established as “anti-Trump”. At a time when the current US President capitalized on his electorate’s fears, Emmanuel Macron offered hope, looking to prove that elections could still be won with optimism and moderation.

Thanks to his advocacy for multilateralism and free trade, Macron managed to be different to his adversaries. To him, it was neither about going against globalization (as promoted by Marine Le Pen, the extreme right wing candidate, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the extreme left wing candidate), nor to fall into the trap of a liberal system without any complexes (incarnated by conservative candidate François Fillon), nor even to be tempted by an utopian approach (Benoît Hamon), but on the contrary to respond to globalization on a human scale.

Overview

First, candidate Macron defined himself as the antithesis of President Trump. Second, President Macron made a shift reflecting both his strategic vision as head of State and, perhaps to a certain extent, the man’s personality. Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump could not be more different from each other, however, in this encounter of two egos, a genuine mutual fascination is developing, each President believing that his counterpart can be charmed. This singular relationship was particularly noticeable during the handshake in Brussels, Donald Trump’s visit to France on 14 July 2017 for Bastille Day but also when Donald Trump addressed his first State visit invitation to his French counterpart in April 2018.

Emmanuel Macron’s relationship with Donald Trump is in many regards similar to the one with Vladimir Putin: lavish invitations but frank talks. On the one side, this relationship depends on what their office demands (Summer 2017 invitation of the American President was a way for France to pay tribute to the centennial of when the Americans came to aid to France). On the other side, by defending multilateralism and free trade, Emmanuel Macron takes over US traditional values. One can almost see a hand-over between the two democracies.

On the Paris Agreement, Emmanuel Macron is not giving up on the idea that Donald Trump might reconsider, as his actions are not determined by any ideology, he might change his mind on climate if it were in his interest to do so.

On the Middle East, and as the United States have embraced the Saudis’ cause against Iran, the French President decided not to take sides, hence retaining a certain room for maneuver over Tehran. However, French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s visit underlined the French diplomacy’s inability to compel Assad’s removal by using Iran.

Emmanuel Macron did not hesitate to oppose Donald Trump’s foreign policy decisions in the region, whether on the transfer of the American embassy to Jerusalem (he considered it a “mistake”) or the freeze of negotiations with Palestinians (“a political failure”).

Because Donald Trump’s America is not the world’s guardian anymore, Europe is facing a necessity: developing its own defense at the European scale, however criticized by the US which fears it would become a hurdle for a stronger NATO.

Analysis

Emmanuel Macron is facing an inevitable difficulty: Donald Trump’s unpredictability. How do you adopt a strategy facing such an interlocutor? Besides, the French President’s objective is to speak in the name of Europe, at a time when the old continent seems more divided than ever in front of an unresponsive American president. This imbalance and unpredictability of transatlantic relations raise the risk of a new global disorder.

The relationship between Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron is likely to remain at the bilateral level and not at the EU/US level. However, Emmanuel Macron’s “friendship” is important to the American President, because if he is taken seriously by Macron, this will help him face some of the criticisms regarding his legitimacy.

Emmanuel Macron’s vision relies on 3 axes:

  • There is no alternative to the United States, thus it has to be treated accordingly under Donald Trump’s presidency, which might merely be a parenthesis.
  • All options should remain on the table.
  • French and European interests are one and the same and should be defended in front of the United States.

And now?

In order to speak in a more balanced way than Donald Trump, it would be wise to have a strong man at the head of the European Commission. But how could a weakened and divided Europe come together in a single and united voice?

When facing Donald Trump, especially during his upcoming visit to Washington, Emmanuel Macron should raise the main international issues, the state of the world, the role of multilateralism, while at the same time defending European security and commercial interests.

As for the relationship between France and Canada, a bond of trust is to be built between two men of the same generation, who share a similar approach to international affairs, and good relations to be maintained. French and Canadian stances are basically the same. Since the last US elections, Canada has become America’s “human” side, easier to dialogue with. Nevertheless, this country is still irresistibly attracted by its Pacific coast and rather leans towards Asia than France.

Despite sometimes contradictory strategic interests, France and Canada both defend the Paris Agreement and free-trade partnerships and they agree when it comes to criticizing Donald Trump’s abuses.

As seen in the North American region with Macron, he may embody a profound breakthrough in domestic issues, his foreign policy falls within the path of his predecessors. His only original asset in foreign affairs is the role model he is becoming thanks to his domestic reforms and their rapid pace.