After Scholz in China, Look Out for Macron in America

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As transatlantic signs go, Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Washington DC will hopefully be better than the recent phone call between Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The two leaders discussed Scholz’s recent visit to China and expressed a “shared” commitment to support international law-based order. Both raised Taiwan, human rights and Ukraine with Xi Jinping.

But good politics cannot hide the gulf between America’s view of China as its main rival and Berlin’s interests in keeping the trade relationship going. It is one of the many bumps in the US-EU relationship that have tried to keep Trump’s time behind – with observers saying there is a risk of a crash.

Europe has helped not to be seen by the White House as an “enemy” free-riding on American security, benefiting from exports with lower prices, and relying on Russia with electronic equipment. The two organizations are on the same geopolitical page regarding the Ukraine intervention, with Germany now willing to spend on defense and less on Russian oil.

However, at the same time, the US sees the EU as not doing enough: Not sending enough military or financial support to Kyiv and not tough enough to fight against China, as Scholz-Biden called. The EU’s view of Beijing as a partner, rival and competitor is muddled for Washington. “On China, Europe is not there,” said former Obama aide Benjamin Rhodes.

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In Europe, anger is building over the widening trade gap with the US. The euro zone’s current trade deficit is in deficit as cheap energy hurts European consumers while supporting US exporters. Purchases of durable goods (cars, washing machines) in the US increased by 24% from December 2019, but fell by 6.7% in France, according to expert Nicolas Goetzmann. The US’s new electric-truck protection is rubbing salt in the EU manufacturers’ wounds.

There is an opening here for Macron, who is himself at loggerheads with Scholz on many issues, to quickly seize the opportunity for transatlantic relations when he meets with Biden on December 1. Important Like a symbol, Macron will be the first US president. guest state.

One challenge is to demonstrate to America why France, and Europe, should be cultivated as partners rather than being left as irrelevant. Macron will consider the embarrassment of the AUKUS episode, which saw the Australian agreement to buy French submarines thrown out by the joint venture with the UK and the US.

On top of the pledge to support Kyiv, France should seek to coordinate with Biden regarding the Indo-Pacific and China. France is the only EU power that has a presence in the region, said Camille Grand of ECFR, with around 7,000 soldiers and 1.5 million citizens. His idea is to find more for America, even if he pitches himself as “equal power.” Macron in September said that France wants to fight the threat of regional “hegemony” by cooperating with India and Australia.

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Although not aligned with the US, France could at least take a position closer to Washington than Berlin. China is France’s 5th largest trade partner, with a total trade of $87.3 billion, but is Germany’s 2nd largest trade partner, with a total trade of $236 billion. When Macron met with Xi on the sidelines of the G20, he followed Biden’s views more than Scholz’s. Paris has a “playing card” as European allies jostle for wine, said Jeremie Gallon, of McLarty Associates.

In return, Macron had to push more US support for the European economy, whose negative opinion has not satisfied the state. If Washington really wants to preach the gospel of “friend-shoring” between friends and NATO partners, it should find a compromise to reduce the support of electric vehicles.

And in a reversal of Obama’s pressure on Angela Merkel during the crisis in the eurozone, the United States will also see the benefits of agreeing to support growth in Europe through investment more and shared loan, something Berlin against. France’s energy policy has shown how the euro zone’s inflation is driven by war and energy rather than the heat seen in America. More, not less, spending is needed.

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One visit will not be a panacea. Confidence between France and the US has been clouded by the confusion surrounding Paris’ push for European or French protectionism. While Macron leads the EU’s only nuclear power and the most reliable military, he has also ruffled feathers by failing to lead military aid to Ukraine and previous barbs about NATO’s mission . It is “not the most popular of Eastern Europeans, or Southern Europeans,” wrote Ilke Toygur and Max Bergmann of the think-tank CSIS.

But the symbol and speech of the Franco-American meeting in Washington DC – itself designed by a French architect – would be a good start. Macron’s administration needs to ease the Franco-German gridlock and energy crisis. And, as former ambassador Pierre Vimont points out, the Biden administration needs allies like Europe to push its international agenda. It’s worth a shot.

More from Bloomberg Opinion:

Macron and Meloni Vote Financial Gauntlet for the ECB: Lionel Laurent

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After the disaster with Putin, the German Court Xi: Andreas Kluth

This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the board of directors or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Lionel Laurent is a Bloomberg Opinion reporter covering digital currencies, the European Union and France. Previously, he was a reporter for Reuters and Forbes.

More stories like this are available at bloomberg.com/opinion

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