French President Emmanuel Macron critiqued the nationalist rhetoric and policies of President Donald Trump in his address to Congress Wednesday. The speech highlighted that, despite the public displays of affection throughout Macron’s state visit, the French President’s views on multilateralism and international cooperations remain in stark contrast to Trump’s “America First” agenda.
Macron’s speech was a call to action of sorts, urging American lawmakers to defend the 21st century world order that was established after World War II and protect the planet they will bequeath to future generations.
“We can choose isolationism, withdrawal or nationalism,” Macron said in his first address to Congress since his election last year. “But closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world”
Macron’s address came one day after the President and First Lady hosted him and his wife Brigitte for a State Dinner at the White House, the first state visit of the Trump Administration. The two shared some moments throughout their visit, like a vigorous handshake and a kiss, that had many spectators chattering about a “bromance,” and Macron jokingly worked the kiss into his speech.
But Macron’s speech underscored the very real differences he harbors with his U.S. counterpart. Trump had all but endorsed Macron’s right wing opponent, Marin Le Pen, last year before the election, and Le Pen ran on many of the views Macron was arguing against in his speech.
Macron began his speech by delving into the special relationship between the United States and France – noting that the two have been allied together through centuries of strife, dating back to their respective revolutions, because of their commitment to democracy and “shared vision for humanity.”
But following that history lesson, all bets were off. He made no attempt to hide his disappointment with the Trump Administration for its list of proposed tariffs, its expressed desire to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, and most notable, its withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. At one point, he even expressed confidence the United States would ultimately rejoin the agreement.
“I believe in building a better future for our children, which requires offering them a planet that is still habitable in 25 years,” he told Congress.
“There is no planet b,” he added, a line that garnered reluctant applause from many Republican lawmakers, while the Democrats laughed and cheered.
Macron directly disputed Trump’s argument that trade imbalances should be cause for withdrawing from multilateral agreements and imposing tariffs, arguing that the latter would ultimately decimate the middle class by destroying jobs and increasing prices, and was inconsistent with a commitment to global security. Trade imbalances are problematic, he said, but countries should address them through the World Trade Organization. “We wrote these rules. We should follow them,” he said.
And when he discussed the Iran nuclear deal – a 2015 agreement Trump has categorized as “insane” – Democrats started to lean forward in their seats, eager to rise for applause as Macron discussed it. He was defiant about the inability of Iran to possess nuclear weapons–but argued his country would not abandon the deal unless there was a substantial replacement.
“We signed it at the initiative of the United States,” he said. “That is why we cannot say we should rid of it like that.”
Macron did conclude his speech, however, by reaffirming the strong relationship between the United States and France, expressing confidence in future cooperation. “Together,” he said, “we will prevail.”