French President Emmanuel Macron will pay a four-day state visit to the United States starting from the evening of November 29. He is the first president to receive the highest diplomatic treatment from the United States twice since France founded the Fifth Republic in 1958.
Judging from this fact alone, the relationship between the United States and France seems to be at a historical peak, but just as Macron fell out after being treated as a state visit by Trump in 2018, this year because of the Russia-Ukraine war, it seems to be "unanimously foreign". "The transatlantic alliance, in fact, is in danger of entering winter as the seasons turn in Europe.
During this visit, Macron, as expected, will visit various representative sites in US-French relations, including the Arlington National Cemetery (Arlington National Cemetery) next to the capital Washington, D.C. French engineer Pierre Charles L'Enfant.
In addition to meeting with the local French community and signing bilateral cooperation such as nuclear energy, the Macron couple will have a private dinner with the Biden couple at the White House on the 30th.
The next day, Macron will be officially welcomed by the guard of honor and the salute of the US military on the South Lawn of the White House, and will meet with reporters and meet in the Oval Office with Biden. ) and Secretary of State Blinken (Antony Blinken) had a lunch, and went to the Capitol to meet with members of both houses and parties. Finally, the entire state visit will end with a formal dinner at the White House. A prominent figure in business and cultural circles.
By Friday (December 2), Macron will also make a special visit to (New Orleans) in Louisiana (Louisiana), becoming the first French president to visit the place since 1976, commemorating that the city was built by the French for more than 10 years. 300 years of history.
After Macron took office, he worked hard to promote the Organization of the Francophonie (OIF) internationally in order to enhance the soft influence radiated by France across the country. Louisiana, which was deeply influenced by the culture of the French colonial era, became an observer of the OIF in 2018.
Biden, in civilian clothes, chats with Macron outdoors during the G20 summit in Indonesia.
It is worth noting that Macron's visit to the United States is also the first time since Biden took office to receive a foreign leader with the highest standard of a state visit. compared to Germany.
Face, of course, is the most important thing for Macron, who spent more than 20,000 euros in official expenditure on cosmetics just a few months after he took office in 2017.
However, this is access also has its pragmatic implications.
Just a week before the visit, officials from France, European countries and the European Union all publicly expressed their dissatisfaction with the United States, setting the main agenda for Macron's state visit.
'Buy American' clause splits US, Europe
The US-Europe alliance, which was united after the Russo-Ukraine war, has recently become increasingly conflicted by the Inflation Reduction Act signed by Biden in mid-August.
The main axis of the "Inflation Cutting Act" is not inflation, but a whopping $369 billion climate investment.
This law has transformed the United States from a "climate policy desert" into a "climate investment oasis" in one fell swoop, and has even increased the expected reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the United States from 30% to 40% by 2030.
From the perspective of climate impact alone, this law is in line with the goals of Europe, which advocates high green policies, but the problem lies in the "Buy American" clause in the "Inflation Reduction Law" - Japan and South Korea have publicly criticized this law early on (Korean President Yoon Suk-yue was recorded "outrageously" scolding members of the U.S. Congress earlier because of this law.) Canada also stated that it will propose a tax exemption for green investment to prevent the United States from absorbing investment.
According to French Trade Minister Olivier Becht, about $200 billion in the Inflation Cut Act finances violations of WTO rules.
Among them, the US$7,500 subsidy for the purchase of electric vehicles in the United States has attracted more attention.
According to the principle of "buy American goods", the electric vehicles that can receive subsidies must generally use components made in North America and assemble them in North America (according to: including Canada and Mexico, which have free trade agreements with the United States), and use electric vehicles produced in other countries in disguise. Excluding it will indirectly increase manufacturers' desire to invest in production in the United States and reduce production in other countries.
In contrast, France has similar subsidies for electric vehicles, but it does not require the origin of electric vehicles.
Biden: The picture shows that on August 16, 2022, US President Biden signed the "Inflation Reduction Act" at the White House.
Similar "protectionist" clauses are not limited to electric vehicles, but also include large solar panels, wind turbines, clean hydrogen energy, etc.
According to different media reports, many European new energy manufacturers have increased investment in the United States and reduced investment in Europe due to the implementation of the "Inflation Reduction Act". Real aid is sometimes several times higher than the existing aid of European countries.
For example, the Spanish energy giant Iberdrola is expected to invest half of its investment in the United States in the next few years, while only about a quarter of its investment will be in Europe.
Since the specific norms and promise fulfillment rate of the U.S. aid to Ukraine are much higher than those of Europe, the EU leadership believes that the trade conflict between the U.S. and Europe should be resolved peacefully.
On October 25, the two parties established a US-EU working group to straighten out disputes brought about by the Inflation Reduction Act.
At the same time, the trade and technology committee established by the US and Europe last year will also discuss the same issue (the next meeting is on December 5).
Europe's requirements are very simple. It is to apply the Biden administration's "buy American" clause to EU products at the same time, so as to reduce the incentive for European manufacturers to relocate, so that European products and American products have a relatively equal starting line in the US market.
But it is very difficult to realize this simple requirement.
The "Inflation Reduction Act" was passed by the Democratic Party alone in Congress after almost a year of disputes within the Democratic Party. The Biden administration is definitely unwilling to risk Congress for the bill.
At this moment, although some members of Congress proposed to suspend the implementation of the "Buy American" clause, the future of this proposal is unclear.
Therefore, the only clear way out is through the Biden administration deliberately exploiting "loopholes" in the implementation of the law to benefit European allies-the Biden administration is discussing this with the industry, but the room for action is likely to be very limited .
The picture shows the plant of BASF in Ludwigshafen, Germany under the lens on April 28, 2022.
While the high energy prices in Europe have already greatly increased the production costs of European industries, the "Business Grab" of the "Inflation Reduction Act" can be regarded as making the European industries worse, making "de-industrialization" a major topic.
For example, the world's largest chemical company BASF (BASF) recently stated that the company's plants in Europe must cut costs for a long time (BASF only recently decided to invest 10 billion euros to build a plant in China).
European countermeasures are limited
In view of this, European politicians have put their dissatisfaction on the table and put pressure on the Biden administration to respond.
Thierry Breton, the French EU internal market commissioner, publicly stated on French TV that although the United States is an ally, it must bring it up for discussion if there is any problem; The Inflation Reduction Act poses an "existential threat" to Europe; the EU authorities have formally notified the U.S. Treasury Department of the protectionist provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act that violate WTO rules, and the possibility of a confrontation between the two parties at the WTO cannot be ruled out.
France and Germany also issued a joint statement on November 22, asking the EU to propose "industrial policies" to maintain the global competitiveness of EU companies and "to prevent the negative impact of protectionist policies of third countries."
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who signed the statement, also said, "We have entered a new globalization, and China has been in this globalization for a long time with the huge state subsidies reserved only for Chinese products. The fact is that the United States has just entered this new globalization before our eyes, to develop industrial capacity on American soil. Europe cannot be (the last of the old globalization).”
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.
The dispute between the US and Europe caused by the "Inflation Reduction Act" has now also extended to the issue of natural gas prices and the US military industry.
EU Internal Market Commissioner Breton has publicly criticized the high price of natural gas exported to Europe by the United States; the political news website POLITICO also quoted a number of European officials expressing dissatisfaction that the US military industry is making a lot of money because of the war.
POLITICO also quoted diplomatic sources as saying that when European leaders questioned Biden about the high gas prices at the G20 summit in Indonesia, Biden seemed unaware of the problem; major problem.
Of course, these extended issues are just a propaganda trick by the European side. After all, the political forces in the United States, including the Democratic state governments, have long asked for natural gas to stay in the United States and not lose to Europe. The Biden administration has always ignored this. It cost some domestic political capital to Europe; and when the United States gave Ukraine far more weapons than Europe, its military enterprises benefited only from the left hand of the United States and had little to do with Europe.
The core issue is again the Inflation Reduction Act.
In fact, even if Biden cannot resolve the dispute in a way that Europe is willing to accept in the end, the EU has very limited room to respond.
Overall, the EU's response has two categories, one is retaliatory actions, and the other is equal subsidies.
At the level of retaliatory actions, appealing to the WTO, imposing retaliatory tariffs on the United States, and prohibiting American companies from participating in EU procurement are also options. However, the WTO arbitration mechanism will take a long time, and the appeal mechanism has long been blocked by the United States. If it cannot work, it will not solve the problem at all; other EU unilateral retaliations may further tear Europe and the United States apart—EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis recently called on people to focus on the overall situation of Ukraine, " We need the United States to maintain support for Ukraine to win the war."
Equal subsidies is the proposition of France, which has always held high the "industrial policy".
Macron himself proposed to imitate the United States and launch the "buy European goods" clause, and use the same financial resources as the United States to support the development of green industries within the EU.
Interestingly, this is what US Trade Representative Katherine Tai thinks Europe should do.
However, there are concerns in Europe (especially from Germany) that industrial policies will violate WTO rules, and some people worry that the EU's financial resources are not as strong as the United States.
But no matter how the EU responds to the United States in the end (or fails to respond due to internal differences), Macron's state visit will probably only accept diplomatic pomp and circumstance to cover up the fact that the United States and Europe are divided.
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