Less than 30 minutes before President Donald Trump rolled up at the Invalides complex in central Paris, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel used a meeting in the French president’s office across the River Seine to pledge to bolster Europe’s standing in the global order.
Trump, who is in the French capital to attend Bastille Day celebrations on Friday, met with Macron shortly after a joint cabinet meeting between the French and German governments in which the two sides agreed to harmonize corporate taxes and make their defense industries work together. Merkel said that she’s also open to measures including a euro-area budget and an expanded role for the bloc’s financial rescue fund.
“We’ve shown that we’re prepared to reactivate Franco-German cooperation with a new elan,” Merkel told reporters in Paris alongside the new French leader.
Merkel has embraced the new French president as a key ally in helping to give the European Union a renewed sense of unity and purpose as Trump challenges long-held European positions on defense, trade and the Paris climate accord. Macron is pushing an ambitious program of liberalizing France’s labor market and cutting taxes to revive growth, partly to win German trust.
Macron left their joint press conference to greet Trump at the military monument that contains the tomb of Napoleon on the other side of the Seine, after much of their media briefing had been taken up with questions about how to handle the U.S. leader.
“We also had to assert some clear differences, especially, unfortunately, in the assessment of whether we need the Paris framework or not,” Merkel said, five days after 19 members of the Group of 20 meeting in Hamburg agreed that the Paris accord on cutting harmful emissions was “irreversible,” with just the U.S. sitting out. “We didn’t paper over these differences, but of course the ability to talk, to have contact, is important.’’
Macron also stressed his opposition to Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris accord. “I strongly disagree with Trump, a disagreement that is known. I’ve discussed it with him and with the chancellor,” the French president said.
Macron said Trump was invited to attend the Bastille Day parade because it’s the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I—and that France and the U.S. historic alliance “goes way beyond us.”
The two countries decided to work more on European security cooperation, announcing that their defense industries would work together to design the next generation fighter plane, due around 2035. While Germany has built warplanes with Britain and Italy, France has tended to build its own through Dassault Aviation.
“It is a revolution,” Macron said of the warplane plans. “But we are not afraid of revolutions when they are peaceful, well put together, and meant to last.”
Merkel defended Germany’s trade surplus, which Macron had criticized earlier in the day as taking advantage of weaker member states. “I just want to say from the German perspective that we have the utmost interest that all countries in the euro area and in the European Union are strong,’’ Merkel said, going on to laud France’s economic reform measures.
Merkel also agreed that Germany has more scope for public investment to address domestic demand, although it’s weighed down by “over-lengthy planning procedures’’ that need to be addressed. She said private investment throughout the EU must also be “unlocked.’’
“You can’t just order that; rather, you have to create an environment,’’ Merkel said.
Macron and Trump are due to hold a press conference later on Thursday, and then dine in the Eiffel Tower.