LONDON (Reuters) – They stayed for state visits and had dinner at the Eiffel Tower, but the relationship between US President Donald Trump and Frenchman Emmanuel Macron of France seems to have turned into a bad date because blows ahead of a NATO summit.
US President Donald Trump meets French President Emmanuel Macron before the NATO summit in Watford, London, Great Britain on December 3, 2019. Ludovic Marin / Pool via REUTERS
Despite a 32-year age difference and very different personal styles, Macron and Trump tend to show that they are best friends, shaking hands tightly and with a big smile, bringing their wives to dinner and exchanging gifts.
But following Macron's comments last month about NATO's "brain death" and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's criticism of Syria, Trump appeared to take off his gloves on Tuesday, landing blow after blow against his "bon ami" .
"When you make a statement like that," he said of Macron's "brain death" critique, "that's a very, very unpleasant statement for essentially 28, including them, 28 countries," the US president said in an interview. collective with the boss. from NATO.
"No one needs NATO more than France," he said, adding that France, where Macron faced a year of protests against its economic reforms, "was not doing well economically."
As if to rub salt on the wound, the United States announced that it would impose heavy tariffs on French luxury goods, wine and cheese, in retaliation for a French plan to levy a digital tax on major technology companies, many of them American.
When Macron and Trump met in London in person, the atmosphere was freezing, with the spectators ready for some fights.
Trump wasted little time, jokingly saying that Macron's response to a journalist's question about how France was dealing with returning combatants from the Islamic State was "one of the biggest unanswered questions I've ever heard."
Macron contradicts Trump's account of how Turkey had bought a Russian air defense system, and they both acknowledged that they had trouble solving the technology tax and the threat of tariffs.
In the past, Macron sought to bridge differences with Trump by emphasizing the need for constructive engagement even as the US president withdrew from the Paris climate deal and withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran.
With the possibility of Trump winning reelection next year, and Macron in office by at least 2022, both have an interest in ensuring that a dispute does not become a bitter disruption.
But if a gift Macron gave Trump is symbolic of his relationships, the omen is not good. During an April 2018 state visit, Macron, Trump, and their wives planted an oak tree off a French World War I battlefield in the White House garden.
A few days later, the shoot was unearthed to be quarantined where it died. In June of this year, Macron downplayed any symbolism and said he would send the Trumps another tree. It is unclear if it was ever shipped or planted.
Written by Luke Baker; Editing by Janet Lawrence
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