No, the US will not apologize. “And I don’t apologize.” US President Joe Biden addressed his guest Emmanuel Macron in clear terms. What Biden is defending here is his climate package, which is intended to create new jobs and boost US industry with subsidies worth billions.

The only catch, at least from the point of view of the Europeans: companies have to use US products or produce in the USA. The law passed in the summer reminds some of Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump’s America First policy – and overshadows the French President’s state visit.

Although he was received in Washington with a great deal of pomp and pomp, he did not refrain from railing against Biden’s law there either. Although the US President did not offend his French colleagues during the visit, Macron was unable to present a solution to the conflict at home after his departure on Friday. The Frenchman is the first guest of state that Biden has received since entering the White House. It’s an important symbol and shows how much the American values ​​Macron. And also what role he attaches to the 44-year-old in Europe.

Macron arrived on Tuesday – the program is peppered with pompous appointments and a trip to New Orleans. On the South Lawn of the White House, Biden received Macron and his wife Brigitte with military honors. In the freezing cold but bright sunshine, they demonstrate unity – especially with a view to the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine and China. Hundreds of spectators cheer and wave their flags, the military band plays the anthems of both countries. Macron and Biden hug, shake hands.

Macron loves the grand entrance

In a fish restaurant in the US capital, they pose together with their wives for a photo – it is intended to convey friendship, intimacy. They both call each other a “friend” over and over again. Biden was no slouch. The White House has been working on a state banquet for months. Macron started the journey with a huge delegation, gives an interview on US television. It’s the grand entrance that the Frenchman loves so much.

Macron is in his element. He has always sought the international stage on which he can present France as a grande nation and diplomatic player of the first rank on an equal footing with the powerful of this world. It is all the more surprising that he shoots so sharply against his host in the US capital of all places. His decisions would fragment the West, he warned in a speech at the French embassy with a view to Biden’s law.

The next day, on the other hand, he seems almost subdued next to the US President, who is defending his law. “We want to be successful together, not against each other,” says Macron. No sign of an attack. For Biden, the project is the greatest success of his tenure so far. Only after tough negotiations in Congress did it end up on his desk. For the Europeans, on the other hand, the “Made in America” ​​law violates the guidelines of the World Trade Organization – it’s pure protectionism.

Biden doesn’t want to hear anything about that – but it’s also not in his interest to completely dupe the Europeans. This is especially true at a time when the West should continue to stand united against Russia. However, Biden is proposing that Europeans introduce a similar law to boost their economy. The German Economics Minister Robert Habeck had already made a similar statement and announced a “robust response” from the EU to the plans.

Compromise not excluded

After a long conversation with Macron in the Oval Office, Biden also admits that there are probably a few flaws in the law that can be corrected. He doesn’t say exactly what that should look like. However, the 80-year-old makes it clear that he had no intention of alienating partners. A compromise cannot be ruled out.

It is at least a concession that Macron can bring back to France – and thus to Europe. Because the Frenchman sees himself in the trade zoff as an active leader and advocate of the EU. And, which also becomes clear during his visit, he has long been seen in the USA as the leader of the old continent. A role that would probably not have been granted to him in the days of Angela Merkel. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) was a guest in the White House at the beginning of the year, but the trip was a much more boring working visit without pomp.

For Macron, the glamor of his US trip stands in stark contrast to domestic political problems he has faced since the start of his second term. Since losing an absolute majority in parliament in the summer, the Liberal has found it difficult to advance reform projects. The opposition often tries to block the Macron camp, and a culture of compromise is a long way off. The statesmanlike images from the USA are unlikely to help him much.

It should also remain open how well Macron liked the American cheese that was on the menu at the festive state banquet. Actually, it is the French who pride themselves on their cheese, which also plays a prominent role on the world market. But here, too, the Bidens rely on the motto “Made in America”.