Before meeting Joe Biden, Emmanuel Macron criticizes American protectionism

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Emmanuel Macron, on a state visit to Washington, said on Wednesday evening that the Biden administration’s massive aid package for American businesses risked “fragmenting the West” and making Europe and France a “adjustment variable” of the rivalry between the United States and China. Offensive remarks made even before the meeting between the two presidents.

The words are strong, the tone is direct. During his first day of state visit to Washington, Wednesday, November 30, Emmanuel Macron addressed the angry subject from the start. The massive plan to support the American economy risks “fragmenting the West” and making Europe and France an “adjustment variable” in the rivalry between the United States and China, a- he declared at the end of the afternoon in front of his compatriots gathered at the French Embassy.

In the viewfinder of the French president, a text of the Biden administration promulgated this summer, called “Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)” and which provides for hundreds of billions of dollars of investments to fight against inflation and reduce American emissions of greenhouse gases. Problem for France and the European Union: the provisions of the text promote “Made in America” ​​via subsidies and tax rebates. Companies from across the Atlantic are therefore penalized.

“Super aggressive” measures

The subject of the IRA is not new. It was expected to be on the table during Emmanuel Macron’s state visit. But this offensive tone, even before the meeting with Joe Biden, promises to spice up the rest of the visit a little more. Wednesday noon, already, statements by the French president denouncing the “super aggressive” measures of the IRA to American parliamentarians had found their way into the press when they should have remained private.

In front of the French community, Wednesday evening, the head of state therefore had no other choice but to assume his words. “I said with great frankness, friendship (to the American elected officials) (…) that what has happened in recent months is a challenge for us because we are starting to shift on energy subjects and the cost of the war (in Ukraine) is not the same in Europe and the United States,” he said. “But above all, the choices made, whose objectives I share, in particular the Inflation Reduction Act, are choices that will fragment the West,” he added.

According to Emmanuel Macron, “these choices can only work if there is coordination between us, if we decide together, if we resynchronize”. Objective: “to prevent a form of commercial hostility from developing in the coming weeks”. “Coordination” and “synchronization”, these are two words repeated many times by the Élysée before and during this state visit.

“Make your own IRA!”

The French presidency re-explained the Paris strategy. It is first a question of “recognizing the legitimacy of the American discourse of reinvestment in green industries”. France shares the same objectives in the fight against the climate crisis. But, “in the context of the war in Ukraine, when Europe bears the brunt of the price of sanctions”, the “risk of distortion” posed by the IRA could weaken Europe. However, the United States has a strategic interest in ensuring that its European ally is robust.

The Élysée, which is the spokesperson for Brussels during these two days, since these discussions are being conducted between the United States and the 27, hopes to obtain exemptions for certain European industries. Another track is also explored: it would be necessary “that we, Europeans, take our measures to enter the competition at the same level as the Americans”. This is what the Americans say more or less to the Europeans: “Make your own IRA!”

For now, Washington says it is listening but gives no indication of any changes to the IRA. Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron, who were dining with their wives at a fancy restaurant in Washington on Wednesday evening, were to discuss the subject before their formal meeting and joint press conference on Thursday.

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