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Business and pleasure on menu for Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron is on a state visit to Washington for talks with Donald Trump.A sit-down between United States President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron followed by a joint news conference highlight the business portion of the French leader’s second day in Washington.

The pageantry of Macron’s official state visit, the first of the Trump presidency, will come on Tuesday night with a lavish state dinner at the White House which is expected to be attended by about 150 guests.

Monday night was a more relaxed affair, featuring a helicopter tour of Washington landmarks and a visit to the Potomac River home of George Washington with their wives for dinner.

The private dinner came one night before the leaders sit down for talks that will include security, trade and the Iran nuclear deal.

“This is a great honour and I think a very important state visit given the moment of our current environment,” Macron said on Monday after his plane landed at a US military base near Washington.

Macron’s pomp-filled three-day state visit to Washington underscores the importance that both sides attach to the relationship: Macron, who calls Trump often, has emerged as something of a “Trump whisperer” at a time when the American president’s relationships with other European leaders are more strained.

Trump, who attaches great importance to the optics of pageantry and ceremony, chose to honour Macron with the first state visit of his administration as he woos the French president.

But Macron and Trump disagree on some fundamental issues, including the multinational nuclear deal, which is aimed at restricting Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.

Trump, skeptical of the pact’s effectiveness, has been eager to pull out as a May 12 deadline nears. Macron says he’s not satisfied with the situation in Iran and thinks the agreement is imperfect, but has argued for the US sticking with it in the absence of a “Plan B.”

The Trumps and Macrons helped plant a tree on the White House grounds before boarding Trump’s Marine One helicopter for a tour of monuments built in the capital city designed by French-born Pierre L’Enfant as they flew south to Mount Vernon, the first US president’s home along the Potomac River.

The young oak is an environmentally friendly gift to the White House from Macron, and one that also bears historical significance. It sprouted at a World War I site in France, the Battle of Belleau Wood, that became part of US Marine Corps lore.

After Trump’s helicopter landed at Mount Vernon, the two presidents, each holding his wife’s hand, walked a short distance and posed for pictures before they boarded golf carts that ferried them to the front door of Washington’s plantation house.

Australian Associated Press

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