Macron and Biden Discuss NATO and Climate Change in First Call
(Bloomberg) -- U.S. President Joe Biden and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron held a phone call Sunday in which they covered issues from NATO to climate change and underscored a wish that their countries maintain a strong relationship.
“The two Presidents had a friendly and in-depth working conversation during which they noted a great convergence of views on multilateral issues as well as on issues of crisis and international security,” Macron’s office said in a statement.
Macron was the first leader of a European Union country to speak to Biden, a day after the latter had spoken to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Biden used Sunday’s call to stress his commitment to bolstering his country’s transatlantic relationship, referring to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the U.S.’s dealings with the EU, according to a White House statement.
The EU and the U.S. have disagreed on numerous issues recently, from trade sanctions to plans to tax tech companies such as Amazon.com Inc. and Facebook Inc. The historic allies are especially trying to settle an aircraft dispute that’s seen the two sides hit $11.5 billion of each others’ exports with tariffs.
Biden’s early moves signal a potential for improvement. The U.S. is rejoining the World Health Organization and the Paris accord on fighting climate change, which Donald Trump had abandoned despite the pledges of his predecessor Barack Obama who backed it in 2015. During last week’s inauguration ceremony, Biden was sworn in on a 400-year-old bible from Douai, Northern France, a gesture that didn’t go unnoticed by French diplomats.
The leaders “hoped that the U.S. return to the Paris Agreement would open up a new stage of action so that the international community could concretely live up to its commitments,” the Elysee statement said. They also noted “willingness to act together for peace and stability in the near and Middle East, particularly on the Iranian nuclear issue and the situation in Lebanon.”
Still, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire last week indicated unease with Biden’s plans for a massive $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief plan when he said he would seek to coordinate European and U.S. fiscal stimulus efforts. As well as discussing stimulus, he said he will push the U.S. to lift trade sanctions and agree to a deal on taxing tech giants and minimum corporate taxation.
Before leaving office, former President Trump suspended a plan to hit $1.3 billion of French goods with tariffs in retaliation for the European country’s tax on the revenue of global tech companies -- many of them American. The 25% levy would have hit signature French goods such as handbags, soap and makeup.
The two presidents agreed to remain “in very close contact,” the Elysee said.
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