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Macron US visit puts Trump bromance to the test

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French President Emmanuel Macron and the US's Donald Trump in Paris last year ALAIN JOCARD / AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron will find out if what commentators have dubbed his "bromance" with Donald Trump can bear diplomatic fruit on a three-day state visit to the United States - the first by a foreign leader under Trump's presidency.


The pair struck up a warm relationship when Trump visited Paris last year for Bastille Day celebrations.

Macron has emerged as one of the few world leaders who has forged a close relationship with the US president.

In an interview with the pro-Trump channel Fox News ahead of the Washington trip, Macron said he wanted to build on their close personal relationship, while raising policy areas where he disagrees with the American president for discussion.

“Macron has always remained rather different from the other European leaders,” says Waddick Doyle, Chair of Global Communications Department at the American University in Paris.

“He has never been openly critical of him. Trump’s relationship with [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel is not good and with [UK Prime minister Theresa] May it's distant."

Diplomacy and friendship

“Countries don’t have friends!” says Jacques Myard, a former MP of the mainstream-right Republicans party.

He thinks the talk of the Macron-Trump relationship is being overplayed.

“It's a mistake to believe that you can have a so-called 'personal relationship' with a head of state," he declares. "It's rubbish! We've experience that in the past and it never works out."

Macron will certainly have his work cut out - the pair disagree on almost everything - climate change, tax, international diplomacy, trade …

On trade, Macron says he wants a permanent exemption from the tariffs that Washington has imposed on steel and aluminium.

Trump has waived the tariffs on EU until 1 May.

Macron wants an indefinite exemption.

Syria withdrawal, Iran deal

He also says he wants the US to continue its engagement in Syria.

Trump says once the Islamic State armed group is defeated the US will pull out.

A big mistake says Macron.

The French president also wants Trump to remain party to the Iran nuclear deal.

Tehran has threatened to return to its programme of enriching uranium if Trump pulls out next month.

In his Fox News interview, Macron said he would ask Trump, what his plan B is and tell him that, even if it is not perfect, the present agreement is better than no deal at all.

The big question in France is will Macron secure any major policy wins?

“Substance has no importance,” thinks Philippe Moreau Defarges, a French geopolitical analyst.

“What is important is the show. If there is a big show in Washington showing Trump and Macron on an equal footing it will be very successful.

“And if Macron does not get any concrete results, he can say 'I’ve tried everything and this man is too difficult'.”