Political News

France's Macron takes aim at Trump agenda in pointed speech to Congress

Posted April 24, 2018 1:52 p.m. EDT
Updated April 25, 2018 10:43 p.m. EDT

— Emmanuel Macron may be known in the US for his close relationship to President Donald Trump, but in his address to Congress on Wednesday, the French President took aim at several key points of Trump's agenda.

Speaking before US lawmakers from both the Senate and the House, Macron pressed the United States to engage more in global affairs, contrasting with the steps the Trump White House has taken toward isolationism since he came into office.

Macron also pushed the US to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, which Trump announced his country would leave last year, and made the case for supporting the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump has sharply condemned.

"The 21st century has brought a series of new threats and new challenges that our ancestors might have never imagined," Macron said. "We can build the 21st century world order based on a new breed of multilateralism, based on a more effective, accountable, and results-oriented multilateralism."

He continued: "This requires more than ever the United States' involvement, as your role was decisive for creating and safeguarding this free world. The United States is the one who invented this multilateralism. You are the one who has to help now to preserve and reinvent it."

Macron specifically mentioned the Iran nuclear deal, which he's been trying to convince Trump to change his mind about, but has been facing an uphill struggle. Trump railed against the deal Tuesday, calling the agreement negotiated by the Obama administration "insane" and "ridiculous" for failing to contain Tehran.

The French President said his country is staying in the deal -- "because we signed it," Macron said. "Our objective is clear. Iran shall never possess any nuclear weapons. Not now, not in five years, not in 10 years, never."

"We should not abandon it if we don't have something more substantial instead. That is my position," Macron added. "Your President and your country ... will have to take its own responsibilities regarding this issue."

He also stressed the importance of taking care of the environment, a pointed remark given Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord and his appointments of officials prioritizing deregulation over environmental concerns.

"I am sure one day, the US will come back and join the Paris agreement." Macron said, adding simply, "Let us face it: There is no planet B."

"We must find a smoother transition to a lower carbon economy," he said. "Because what is the meaning of our life, really, if we work and live destroying the planet while sacrificing the future of our children?"

Macron's address coincided with the 58th anniversary of then-French President Charles de Gaulle's address to a joint session of Congress.

Macron -- who has been dubbed by some observers as a "Trump whisperer" -- has been able to develop one of the closest relationships Trump maintains with a world leader. He started his speech thanking and praising his American counterpart. He stressed the importance of the relationship between the United States and France, a relationship forged since the start of the US.

"We have shared the history of civil rights," he said. "Thousands of examples come to mind. One would think of the exchanges between our cultures across the centuries."

Macron's speech to Congress came after he spent two days with Trump tackling a slew of pressing policy issues including the Iran nuclear deal, the Syrian civil war, climate change, counterterrorism and Russian aggression.

Before his US visit, Macron held talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is set to visit Washington on Friday.

This story has been updated with additional developments from Macron's speech.