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Macron Resists 'America First' Speech  04/26 06:16

   French President Emmanuel Macron drew sharp contrasts with President Donald 
Trump's worldview Wednesday, laying out a firm vision of global leadership that 
rejects "the illusion of nationalism" in a candid counterweight to Trump's 
appeals to put "America first."

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- French President Emmanuel Macron drew sharp contrasts 
with President Donald Trump's worldview Wednesday, laying out a firm vision of 
global leadership that rejects "the illusion of nationalism" in a candid 
counterweight to Trump's appeals to put "America first."

   In the spotlight of a speech to the U.S. Congress, Macron was courteous but 
firm, deferential but resolute as he traced the lines of profound division 
between himself and Trump on key world issues: climate change, trade and the 
Iran nuclear deal.

   A day after the French leader had put on a show of warmth and brotherly 
affection for Trump at the White House, his blunt speech prizing engagement 
over isolationism reinforced the French leader's emerging role as a top 
defender of the liberal world order.

   "We can choose isolationism, withdrawal and nationalism. This is an option. 
It can be tempting to us as a temporary remedy to our fears," Macron said. "But 
closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world. It will 
not douse but inflame the fears of our citizens."

   Issuing a bleak warning, he urged against letting "the rampaging work of 
extreme nationalism shake a world full of hopes for greater prosperity."

   It was a marked shift from the simpatico Macron of only a day earlier during 
his state visit at the White House. In his first year as France's president, 
Macron has carefully cultivated as close a relationship to Trump as any world 
leader can boast. But addressing a joint meeting of Congress --- an honor 
granted only occasionally to leaders of close U.S. allies --- Macron confronted 
his differences with Trump head-on.

   As Trump weighs pulling out of the 2015 Iran accord, Macron made clear that 
France will not follow his lead.

   "We signed it at the initiative of the United States. We signed it, both the 
United States and France," Macron said. "That is why we cannot say we should 
get rid of it like that."

   Macron later told French reporters that he has no "inside information" on 
Trump's decision on the Iran deal but noted that it's clear the U.S. president 
"is not very much eager to defend it."

   Macron saved some of his most pointed comments during the speech on Trump 
administration policy on climate change, implicitly lamenting the president's 
moves to withdraw from the global emissions pact reached in Paris. Macron said 
humans are "killing our planet" and added: "Let us face it: There is no Planet 
B."

   "On this issue, it may happen we have disagreements between the United 
States and France. It may happen, like in all families," Macron said. "But 
that's for me a short-term disagreement."

   It was an allusion not to an impending Trump about-face, but to the prospect 
of America choosing a different path under a successor, whoever that may prove 
to be. Asked by French reporters about his comments later during a visit to the 
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Macron said with a smile that he doesn't 
expect Trump to rejoin the Paris accord but does expect that America will.

   Macron's hourlong speech to Congress, delivered in English, provoked obvious 
delight from congressional Democrats, who erupted repeatedly in cheers and 
standing ovations for the visiting Frenchman --- a contrast to the mostly 
silent reaction from Republicans in the House chamber. To some, it was an 
ironic reminder that more than a year after being walloped by Trump in the 
election, Democrats have yet to coalesce behind either a cohesive message or a 
messenger, still plaintively searching for the kind of energetic, fresh-faced 
leader that Macron represents.

   For Macron, the exuberant reception may have been equally ironic. At home, 
Macron does not enjoy the same level of applause or enthusiasm. A centrist in 
France, he's currently criticized more from the left than the right, notably 
for ending France's famed worker protection, and he's often derided as the 
president of the rich.

   Still, his soaring speech to Congress and closely watched visit to the 
United States have buttressed the notion that Macron, more than any other world 
leader, now carries the torch for the rules-based international system of 
freedoms, free markets and democratic governance that Western nations have 
championed since World War II.

   Trump's positions on trade and overseas obligations have chipped away at 
America's position as the spokesman for that movement. And German Chancellor 
Angela Merkel, seen in recent years as the inheritor of that role, has faded 
somewhat amid domestic political challenges in her country.

   That France sees itself as uniquely equipped to help fill that void seemed 
evident as Macron called for communal action to address "urgent" threats to 
what he called fundamental values.

   "Today, the international community needs to step up our game and build the 
21st century world order," he said.

   It wasn't all criticism from Macron. He sought to showcase the historic bond 
between the U.S. and France, touting the two allies' "constant attachment to 
freedom and democracy." Yet he also mentioned "fake news," a point of 
contention between Trump and others, and warned that lies disseminated online 
are threatening freedoms worldwide.

   In friendly fashion, he recounted trans-Atlantic links from the earliest 
days of the United States, Macron talked about a meeting between Ben Franklin 
and the French philosopher Voltaire, "kissing each other's cheeks."

   In an apparent reference to his affectionate rapport with Trump this week, 
Macron mused: "It can remind you of something."


(KA)

 
 
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