As part of his first state visit since taking office, U.S. President Joe Biden joined a series of events to welcome French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron, on Thursday.
The Macron couple’s visit to the White House marked their second time as guests of state on a state visit, the first time they did so during Donald Trump’s administration in 2018. Thursday’s agenda was full of formal publicity, with a flurry of events expected to highlight the strength of the key relationship between the United States and its oldest ally.
On Thursday morning, the Macron couple arrived at the White House for an official arrival ceremony.
The Élysée Palace announced on Thursday morning that Macron had given the president four gifts: a vinyl record and a CD of the soundtrack to the film the first couple saw on their first date – “Un Homme et une Femme”, by Christofle A mug, symbolizing the link between France and America, a sweater by House Saint James and a watch by LIP Horlogerie. He also gave the first lady a copy of Albert Camus’ Madame Bovary and Plague, Fall, Exile and Kingdom and Anthology. He gave Vice President Kamala Harris a model of the Ariane 5 rocket.
There was also a dramatic rebound in U.S.-French relations ahead of another state visit by Macron compared with a year ago, when Macron took the extraordinary step of recalling his ambassador from Washington over the U.S.-Australia submarine deal Caught France and France by surprise. They spend billions of dollars in defense contracts. The riff appears to be largely behind them, with Biden and Macron further deepening their ties over the past year in a joint effort to combat Russia’s war on Ukraine.
“Amid all of these activities, you can expect to see our long shared history as allies and our deep partnership in addressing the most pressing global challenges of today and tomorrow,” said White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby. told reporters on Monday. “While we expected this visit to make progress in some specific areas, I want to stress that much of this visit is actually a celebration of the strong foundations of this relationship: one that is deeply rooted in our history , from the very beginning of our country, while also looking to the future — and we look forward to a dynamic, exciting future.”
Much of the action surrounding Macron’s state visit took place on Thursday.
After the official arrival ceremony at the White House, Biden and Macron will hold bilateral talks. The two leaders will discuss a range of issues, including topics of mutual concern – such as Ukraine, Iran and China – before participating in a joint news conference.
“I fully expect that with the arrival of President Macron, China will be high on the agenda in the coming days,” Kirby told reporters Wednesday.
U.S. and French officials do not expect the visit to yield any major results, but both see it as an opportunity for the two countries to deepen their partnership as they tackle a range of global challenges. The two sides will also advance working group discussions launched after the submarine incident last year to strengthen cooperation on space, cyberspace and energy issues.
Still, some disagreements are expected to emerge.
One of the biggest points of tension will be the billions-plus in electric vehicle subsidies included in the Lower Inflation Act, which applies only to vehicles made in North America. Macron lashed out at the measure because of protectionism and French officials have said he intends to raise the issue in meetings with Biden and congressional leaders.
On Thursday, Jill Biden and Brigitte Macron also plan to visit Planet Word, a language-themed museum in Washington. A French official also said President Macron was expected to attend a luncheon at the U.S. State Department and meet lawmakers from both parties in Congress.
On Thursday night, the Macron couple will return to the White House for the first state dinner of the Biden administration. French guests included film director Claude Leroche, Louvre Museum director Laurence de Cass and LVMH chief executive Bernard Arnault, according to French officials.
The White House did not say who they invited to Thursday night’s lavish dinner, but said in a preview that New Orleans native Jon Baptiste will perform musical excerpts.
Harris welcomed President Macron to NASA on Wednesday, celebrating the cooperation between the two countries in space. The first family also held a private dinner with the Macron couple ahead of the official state dinner on Thursday.
On the final leg of their U.S. tour, the Macron couple will travel to New Orleans on Friday to highlight new efforts to expand French-language education in the United States.
This story and title have been updated with additional developments.