iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) — President Donald Trump is set to arrive in Paris on Friday to take part in ceremonies commemorating the end of World War I alongside French President Emmanuel Macron.
But while Macron has developed a close personal relationship with Trump since taking office, he has failed to influence his American counterpart on major foreign policy decisions.
After winning the presidency in May 2017, Macron, 40, saw an opportunity to create a special bond with Trump, 72, according to Hubert Védrine, who served as the French foreign minister between 1997 and 2002.
“Very few world leaders have a normal relationship with Donald Trump,” Védrine told ABC News. “In this context, Macron thought it was worth trying to create a warm friendship with the U.S president.”
By inviting Trump to be his guest of honor at France’s elaborate Bastille Day celebration in July 2017, Macron demonstrated his intention to create a special relationship between the two countries, said Annick Cizel, a professor at La Sorbonne University who specializes in American foreign policy.
For his part, Trump has said he loved the military parade on the Champs-Elysees Avenue on Bastille Day and said afterwards he wanted to stage a similar one in Washington.
The two leaders are also “disruptors” and share some characteristics that have helped them forge a personal bond, according to Alexandra De Hoop Scheffer, the Paris director of transatlantic think-tank the German Marshall Fund.
“It’s a meeting between two disruptors in their respective countries,” De Hoop Scheffer told ABC News. “They were both elected by breaking the established political system in France and in the United States.”
Both leaders also share some personality traits.
“‘The Art of the Deal’ is an expression associated with Donald Trump. But it can also be applied to Emmanuel Macron,” Cizel told ABC News.
“The U.S. president sees Macron as a negotiator, a pragmatic. Trump likes these attributes,” De Hoop Scheffer said.
“On the fight against global terrorism, most notably in Africa and Syria, there have been strong, concrete results by the two allies,” De Hoop Scheffer added.
But Macron has failed to persuade Trump to remain in major international agreements, including the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate agreement.
Unable to influence Trump on these issues, the French president has chosen to adapt his strategy, according to Védrine.
“Macron has not given up on the personal friendship approach he put in place toward Donald Trump since the beginning,” Védrine said. “But he has completed it by pointing out disagreements between the two leaders.”
Those disagreements were on display at the UN General Assembly in September, where Trump and Macron’s speeches revealed their two very different views of the international order. Trump’s unilateralist agenda sharply contrasted with Macron’s support for multilateralism and liberal values, De Hoop Scheffer said.
These two speeches marked a turning point, according to Cizel.
“It felt like President Macron was responding to President Trump point by point when he took the stage at the UN last September,” Cizel said.
The challenge for the French president now is to reconcile the strong personal relationship he has created with Trump with his criticism over his approach to world affairs, Védrine said.
“Who knows: maybe one day Macron’s method will bear its fruits,” the former French foreign minister said.
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