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Macron's Agenda In Washington


Today, the president of France addresses Congress. Emmanuel Macron is in the midst of a state visit which has included talks with President Trump, not to mention dinner. His official delegation includes the transatlantic affairs analyst we will meet next. Benjamin Haddad works at the Hudson Institute, and he's in our studios. Good morning.

BENJAMIN HADDAD: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Do the two presidents really agree on very much?

HADDAD: Well, they get along well. And we've seen that yesterday. I think they both see themselves as political outsiders who stunned establishments of their respective countries. They work well together on the fight against terrorism, which has been a longstanding area of cooperation. But it is true that on the key issues that President Macron wants to bring forward on this trip, there are huge disagreements from the Iran deal to the necessity to stay in Syria and not even mentioning disagreements that appeared earlier in this term like the Paris climate agreement.

INSKEEP: Yeah. Yeah. Well, let's talk about the Iran nuclear deal because a deadline is coming up for President Trump either to extend sanctions relief for Iran or get rid of it, which could begin to undo this deal. Macron wants to preserve it. He used the phrase new deal yesterday. And I interpreted his joint remarks with President Trump as follows - Macron speaking of a new deal and President Trump saying at most, well, we'll see about that. What's the idea?

HADDAD: Well, the French were part of the negotiation obviously of this deal that was signed by Barack Obama. But they recognize that it's incomplete, that it could be fixed. It's not perfect. But what President Macron is trying to tell President Trump is that it's already a good basis. There is no reason to shun it. There's no plan B, as he said on Fox News the other day. And what he wants to do is keep the existing deal but build upon it, complete it with other major measures covering areas that are not currently covered by the nuclear deal from Iran's ballistic missile program to countering Iranian regional influence and expansion, as they said yesterday, from Yemen to Syria, to trying to make sure that some of the dispositions of this deal that cover - that are covered for 10 or 15 years go beyond this. He talked yesterday of a new deal, but I think he's still trying to convince President Trump not to withdraw from the nuclear agreement on May 12.

INSKEEP: So keep the agreement, the provisions of which last 10 years or 15 years, or in a few cases forever, and see if you can do another deal. Iran seems resistant even to that much change however, which makes me wonder, if forced to choose between the United States and Iran, which way would France choose?

HADDAD: Of course the United States and France our allies. We saw just last week, alongside the United Kingdom, they were involved in the strikes together against the Assad regime after the use of chemical weapons on civilians.

INSKEEP: In Syria, yeah.

HADDAD: So there's no doubt that France is with its allies, on the side of the United States, despite, once again, disagreements on this. But I think a lot of these measures that were discussed yesterday could actually be implemented just by the United States and Europeans together. If you look at sanctions on measures on the ballistic missile, I don't think it would have to go necessarily through a new kind of agreement.

INSKEEP: Oh, meaning the U.S. and Europe have so much power, they could say, Iran, this is how it's going to be and see if you guys want to talk about it or not. We can discuss it, but we're going to do what we're going to do.

HADDAD: It's certainly going to be an uphill battle, but I think that's what they're trying to convince the American administration to do.

INSKEEP: How troubling is it to President Macron, and to France generally, that President Trump withdrew from the Paris climate agreement?

HADDAD: It is very troubling. It's very troubling because this was a landmark agreement for French diplomacy that was at the forefront of the negotiations. So there's a symbolic aspect, but beyond that, this is a - an issue that Europeans care deeply about. Present Macron put this at the forefront of his campaign, of his message. And I think it's, you know, within a broader attachment to multilateralism and global cooperation against the challenges that we're facing.

What the French are trying to do today is twofold, trying to continue to make the case to the administration that it is in its national interest to stay within the deal and, you know, talk about the fact that it's good for American businesses, it's good for the American economy in the long term but also work with Americans beyond Washington and the administration. What President Macron has been doing in the last few months since the announcement of the withdrawal is to work with governors and corporations and mayors, in a way, circumventing Washington.

INSKEEP: Other American officials.

HADDAD: Exactly, and trying to create a coalition in the United States that goes beyond federal government.

INSKEEP: How much does it trouble President Macron that he was elected opposing a nationalist, nativist, anti-immigrant coalition, and President Trump has shown sympathy for that same coalition? His onetime adviser, Steve Bannon, was very public about that.

HADDAD: Well, I think, once again, there's just a pragmatic assessment that we need to cooperate with the United States. He's going to make that case in front of Congress. I think he's going to try to talk to the American people beyond the president, making the case for transatlantic unity. And there's a realistic assessment that the French don't choose who's the president of the United States, that we have a longstanding historical relationship, a lot of common interests. But I would just add also that Macron's election was also a consequence of this anti-establishment anger, the fact he's young, he's a new candidate, brought forth a lot of new candidates for Parliament is also part of what's going on in all Western democracies.

INSKEEP: Some things in common even though there are differences. Benjamin Haddad of the Hudson Institute. Thanks for coming by, really appreciate it.

HADDAD: Thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF JIZUE'S "SAKURA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.