Macron and Merkel Come to Washington
President Donald Trump hosted President Emmanuel Macron of France for a state visit earlier this week, while Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany will pay a visit to Washington today. These represent the third meeting for both European leaders with the American president. Trade and the Iran nuclear deal are on the agenda for the meetings between Trump and both Macron and Merkel.
The visits have the potential to be overshadowed by the issue of US tariffs on European steel and aluminum. Last month, Trump announced tariffs on imports of both metals, leading to protests from the European Union and threats of retaliatory measures on US exports to Europe. Trump granted the EU a temporary exemption from the tariffs, but that exemption is about to expire on May 1.
Merkel and Macron want to see the exemptions made permanent and both want to avert a transatlantic trade war, which would be a losing proposition for all concerned.
The Europeans share US concerns about Chinese trade practices, including Chinese government subsidies for exporters, intellectual property theft, the lack of reciprocal market access, and the issue of mandatory technology transfers. Germany and France would like US cooperation on these issues, but they want to go through multilateral structures like the World Trade Organization.
Trump wants the help of European leaders to fix what he considers to be flaws in the Iran nuclear deal and has set a May 12 deadline, at which point he may pull the United States out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Trump wants tougher inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites and the removal of the JCPOA’s sunset provisions. He also wants to address Iran’s ballistic missile programs and its aggressive behavior in the Middle East, both of which are outside the scope of the JCPOA.
The US has been negotiating this year on these issues with France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the European Union. Europe may be open to action on the regional and ballistic missile issues, but reports indicate that EU foreign ministers first want to make sure that Washington will remain in the nuclear deal.
In his address to a joint meeting of Congress, Macron argued the US should remain a part of the Iran deal, adding that France’s objective is for Iran never to possess nuclear weapons. Macron said that he and Trump agreed to work on a more comprehensive deal to address “the containment of the military influence of the Iranian regime in the region and the monitoring of ballistic activity.”