- Vincent Kessler/Reuters
- President Donald Trump’s tight bond with French President Emmanuel Macron appears to have fallen apart.
- Trump launched into an extended Twitter tirade against Macron and France on Tuesday, his third online attack on the country in the past week.
- Trump took shots at topics as varied as Macron’s approval rating and France’s wine industry.
- The falling-out mirrors Trump’s troubles with other world leaders he once shared a connection with, such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The once close relationship between President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron appears to be on the rocks after Trump launched into a Twitter tirade attacking Macron and France on Tuesday.
What was widely viewed as a bromance marked by intense handshakes and tree planting has now devolved, as represented by Trump’s attacks on Macron’s approval ratings and France’s trade restrictions on US wine.
“The problem is that Emmanuel suffers from a very low Approval Rating in France, 26%, and an unemployment rate of almost 10%,” Trump tweeted Tuesday. “He was just trying to get onto another subject. By the way, there is no country more Nationalist than France, very proud people-and rightfully so! MAKE FRANCE GREAT AGAIN!”
While the two sides’ connection became strained after Trump decided to apply tariffs to the European Union’s steel and aluminum exports to the US, the falling out appears to have hit a nadir over the weekend.
The presidential dustup kicked off when Macron suggested last week that Europe needed to build up its military to protect itself from threats, including the US.
“We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia, and even the United States of America,” Macron said on French radio.
While Macron insisted the comment referred to the need to wean Europe off of the US’s defense and cybersecurity apparatus, Trump took offense to the comment and bashed Macron in a tweet on Friday.
“President Macron of France has just suggested that Europe build its own military in order to protect itself from the US, China and Russia,” Trump said. “Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the US subsidizes greatly!”
In fact, Macron was essentially suggesting Europe do exactly what Trump wants: spend more on defense to meet the agreed-upon defense-spending threshold for NATO members.
An awkward weekend
Following the back-and-forth over defense, Trump traveled to France to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, and his displeasure with Macron was on full display.
The trip got off to a shaky start Saturday when Trump did not attend a World War I memorial service near Paris on Saturday because of inclement weather; his absence drew a slew of critiques.
Trump defended the choice in a tweet Tuesday, saying Marine One could not fly to the cemetary for the service and the Secret Service would not allow Trump to travel by car. While US presidents typically have backup plans in case of of foul weather, it appears Trump’s team did not.
The awkwardness continued Sunday during a one-on-one meeting that did not appear as warm as previous interactions between Trump and Macron. The interaction was then followed by a Macron speech denouncing nationalism, a movement Trump has explicitly embraced in recent months.
“Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism,” Macron said just a few yards away from Trump. “By saying, ‘Our interests first, who cares about the others,’ we erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life, what gives it grace, and what is essential: its moral values.”
While Macron did not call out Trump by name, the US president did not appear to be enthused by the public condemnation.
Following the rocky weekend, Trump continued to launch online attacks at France and the rest of the European leaders. On Monday, Trump threatened to pull out of NATO and declared on Twitter that “Trade must be FREE and FAIR!”
Trump continued his tantrum on Tuesday with the personal attacks about Macron’s approval ratings (which are indeed dismal) and a variety of other insults, including a shot at France’s record during World War II.
“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia,” Trump tweeted. “But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the US came along. Pay for NATO or not!”
- Benoit Tessier/Reuters
The president also attacked France’s wine trade, saying trade restrictions imposed by the European Union were unfair to US wine producers.
“On Trade, France makes excellent wine, but so does the US,” Trump said. “The problem is that France makes it very hard for the US to sell its wines into France, and charges big Tariffs, whereas the US makes it easy for French wines, and charges very small Tariffs. Not fair, must change!”
According to data from the International Trade Centre, France exported roughly $1.8 billion worth of wine to the US in 2017, while just $71 million went from the US to France.
Trump reportedly has had a renewed interest in recent days in imposing tariffs on imported cars and trucks. While France wouldn’t suffer from auto tariffs as much as other EU nations – such as Germany – the move would most likely cause major economic disruptions across Europe. France’s finance minister has pledged to hit back if Trump imposes auto restrictions on European cars.
A dwindling number of close relationships
The back-and-forth between Trump and Macron seems to have buried one of the president’s closer diplomatic relationships.
Macron was the first official state visitor of Trump’s presidency, and the pair always shared a chummy rapport in their public interactions, but Trump appears to have been scorned of late. In fact, Macron appeared much closer to German Chancellor Angela Merkel – who has not enjoyed a friendly relationship with Trump – over the weekend.
The collapse of the Trump-Macron bromance bears a lot of similarities to the falling out between the US leader and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Trudeau and Trump seemed to forge a connection early in Trump’s presidency, but feuds over trade policies and personal attacks by Trump caused an ugly breakup. Similarly, Trump’s relationships with other leaders, like Chinese President Xi Jinping, have become strained over trade fights and other disagreements.