France's Macron first foreign leader to make state visit under Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes French President Emmanuel Macron to the White House on Monday at the start of a three-day state visit expected to be dominated by U.S.-European differences on the Iran nuclear deal and souring trade relations. 

Trump ended his first year without receiving a foreign leader on an official state visit, making him the first president in nearly 100 years to do so. He has hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping at his private Palm Beach, Fla., club, Mar-a-Lago.

He has also held meetings in the Oval Office with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Abe.  

On Monday, the president and Melania Trump will dine privately with Macron and his wife, Brigitte, at Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, the first U.S. president and Revolutionary War commander whose alliance with France was critical to victory over the British. The White House said the setting will serve as a reminder of France’s “unique status” as America’s first ally.

The major work between them is scheduled for Tuesday during White House meetings, before Macron addresses Congress on Wednesday, the anniversary of the day that French Gen. Charles de Gaulle addressed a joint session of Congress in 1960. 

That evening, approximately 150 guests will take their seats in the State Dining Room for the big soiree that has been months in the making.

Macron and Trump, seen here in Paris in July 2017, have an unlikely friendship, despite strong differences on areas such as climate change. The two leaders speak frequently by phone.(Matthieu Alexandre/Associated Press)

Some of the guests include Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, House Speaker Paul Ryan and
Defence Secretary Jim Mattis. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was invited, but his office said he is unable to attend.

In a break with tradition, Trump invited no Democratic members of Congress or journalists, said a White House official who was not authorized to discuss the arrangements. But at least one Democrat will be in the crowd: the office of Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards confirmed his attendance.

Syria, Iran, trade to be discussed

Trump and the 40-year-old French leader began their improbable friendship a year ago in Belgium with a jaw-clenching handshake. While other European leaders have kept a certain distance from Trump, Macron has worked hard to remain close to the U.S. president, and the two leaders speak frequently by phone.

Macron is on something of a rescue mission for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which Trump has vowed to scrap unless European allies strengthen it by mid-May. 

The deal reached between Iran, the United States and five other world powers put curbs on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. 

Macron said on Fox News Sunday that it would be better to protect the Iran deal instead of get rid of it, saying there is no “Plan B” to take its place.

“Is this agreement perfect and this JCPOA a perfect thing for our relationship with Iran? No. But for nuclear — what do 
you have as a better option? I don’t see it,” he said.

Macron also wants to persuade Trump to exempt European nations from steel tariffs that are part of the U.S. president’s plan to reduce chronic trade deficits with countries around the world, chiefly China. 

The two leaders are also expected to discuss Syria, less than two weeks after the United States, France and Britain launched airstrikes in Syria in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack that killed dozens in Douma, Syria.

Macron said last week that he believed he had persuaded Trump to keep U.S. troops in Syria, but Trump has been insistent on bringing them home, although he has not publicly provided a definite timetable.

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