- French President Emmanuel Macron was once President Donald Trump’s closest friend in Europe.
- But Trump’s recent trade fight with the European Union has turned that relationship rocky.
- Macron blasted Trump’s policy in a speech Thursday.
- “The American president may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a six-country agreement if need be,” Macron said.
- Trump was running late arriving at the G7 summit on Friday, forcing the postponement of a bilateral meeting between the two leaders.
The tight relationship between President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron appears to be crumbling as the French leader gets tough on the US president’s trade policy.
The rocky turn represents a dramatic change from just over a month ago, when Trump welcomed Macron to the White House for the first state visit of Trump’s presidency.
But the relationship seems to have taken a turn after Trump’s recent decision to hit the European Union, of which France is a member, with tariffs on steel and aluminium.
The decision has isolated Trump ahead of the G7 summit in Canada, as every other member – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK – is expected to chastise the president over the trade policy.
Amid the rising tensions, Trump was behind schedule in his arrival at the summit on Friday, forcing the postponement of a scheduled bilateral meeting with Macron. The White House said it would try to reschedule for later in the day.
‘No leader is eternal’ – Macron gets tough
After spending much of Trump’s first or so year in office courting the president, Macron shifted his attitude most prominently on Thursday during a feisty press conference.
“The American president may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a six-country agreement if need be,” Macron said and later tweeted in English. “Because these six countries represent values, they represent an economic market which has the weight of history behind it and which is now a true international force.”
In another apparent shot at Trump, the French president also highlighted the fleeting nature of leaders in charge of G7 countries.
“No leader is eternal,” Macron said. “We inherit commitments which are beyond us. We take them on. That is the life of nations.”
The statements represent a dramatic about-face from Macron’s April visit to the White House. Even before meeting with Trump, the French leader explained what he considered a “special relationship” in an interview on Fox News, Trump’s favourite US cable news network.
“Look, I think we have this very special relationship because both of us are probably mavericks of the systems on both sides,” Macron told the host Chris Wallace.
But the cracks in the relationship started to show soon after Trump last week rescinded the EU’s exemption from tariffs he had announced earlier this year. European leaders rushed to condemn the decision, and the economic bloc announced retaliatory measures on roughly $US7 billion worth of US goods.
The decision led to a “terrible” call between Macron and Trump that became testy, CNN reported. When asked about the call, Macron referred to a famous quote from the German statesman Otto Von Bismarck.
“As Bismarck used to say, if we explained to people how sausages were made, it’s unlikely they’d keep eating them,” the French president said.
Macron, a former economic minister, also noted that even without the US, the other G7 nations were an economic powerhouse.
“The six other G7 countries combined form a larger market than the American market,” Macron said. “This must not be forgotten.”
Macron also reportedly threatened not to sign the official G7 communique unless the US was willing to make serious concessions on trade. The move, while mostly symbolic, highlights the deep divisions between the two usually friendly leaders.
US allies sour on Trump
Macron represents not the only formerly friendly relationship that Trump’s tariffs have soured.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly criticised Trump in recent days, calling the move “totally unacceptable.”
Trudeau, much like Macron, also attempted to take a gentler approach to Trump in the early days of Trump’s presidency.
Trump shot back at Macron and Trudeau in a tweet on Thursday.
“Please tell Prime Minister Trudeau and President Macron that they are charging the U.S. massive tariffs and create non-monetary barriers,” Trump said. “The EU trade surplus with the U.S. is $US151 Billion, and Canada keeps our farmers and others out. Look forward to seeing them tomorrow.”
Trump is set to meet Trudeau later in the day.
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