President Trump is hosting his first State Dinner tonight for Emmanuel Macron of France. The two men have what appears to be an excellent working relationship, with Trump’s seating as guest during the Bastille Day celebration sparking an interest in an American military parade in the Capitol. (from Newsweek)
As Quartz has noted, the menu does not display the burgers promised by the President when he was a candidate attempting to put forth an “average guy” image, but rather rack of spring lamb. This is almost certainly a good thing; even if the President were to prefer a burger, the tastes of international leaders tend toward that of the gourmet. Even if they cannot distinguish between fried alligator and roast pheasant, leaders are expected to demonstrate refinement.
The purpose of Macron’s visit, however, is not merely to greet the President or to enjoy a fete at the White House. It is to petition President Trump for specific policy decisions.
Most notable are Trump’s position on tariffs and his position on the Iran deal.
Macron wishes to receive a complete and total exemption from Trump’s tariffs, for France. Per Newmax, France’s Finance Minister has said:
“We cannot accept the European Union and France being hit by new tariffs,” said Le Maire, replying to a question whether “temporary exemptions” would be pursued by Macron during his talks with Trump.
“There must be a full and permanent exemption to any new tariffs,” he added without hesitation.
The obvious sticking point here is the import of cars to France, which has the same pedestrian-protection requirements for imported cars as Japan. As noted in an earlier article about Trump’s meeting with Shinzo Abe, Trump wants U.S. cars to be exempted from international safety standards. If he makes an exception for France that he refuses to make for Japan, it may further shade the relationship between the U.S. and Japan.
The other matter of discussion is the Iran deal. Macron strongly hopes that he will be able to convince Trump to keep it intact. From the BBC:
Mr Macron told Fox he had no “plan B” for the deal if the US decided to restore sanctions, and said the US should stay in the agreement as long as there was no better option.
“Let’s present this framework because it’s better than the sort of North Korean-type situation.”
The main problem Trump has with the Iran deal is that the benefits to Iran were front-loaded during the Obama administration. Iran has already received the payments for signing to the deal, and need only avoid being caught breaking the deal by the inspectors that Iran provides.
If the U.S. attempts to re-impose sanctions, it would have to arrange that with its allies again; it would anger Russia from CNN),whom Trump has a history of both antagonizing and lauding; and it would hand a political victory to anti-American forces who would suggest we don’t stand by our word as a nation.
On the other hand, if the U.S. abides by the deal, it marks yet one more time that Trump has reversed course on a major campaign promise and risks alienating his base. It also continues to restrict U.S. options regarding Iran.
With only differing degrees of bad option available to the President, Macron is attempting to sway him toward the bad option favored by France.