French President Emmanuel Macron planted a tree on the lawns of the White House with Donald Trump.Tending to bonding before business, President Donald Trump and France’s Emmanuel Macron have opened the French president’s visit with an anything-but-ordinary double date with their wives at George Washington’s house.
The presidents and their spouses hopped on a helicopter bound for Mount Vernon, Washington’s historic riverside home, for a private dinner one night before the leaders sit down for talks on a weighty agenda including security, trade and the Iran nuclear deal.
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.
“This is a great honour and I think a very important state visit given the moment of our current environment,” Macron said after his plane landed at a US military base near Washington.
For all their camaraderie, 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, sceptical of the pact’s effectiveness, has been eager to pull out as a May 12 deadline nears. Macron says he is not satisfied with the situation in Iran and thinks the agreement is imperfect, but he has argued for the US sticking with the deal on the grounds that there is not yet a “Plan B.”
The Trumps and Macrons helped plant a tree on the White House grounds together before boarding Trump’s Marine One helicopter for a scenic 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 and their wives entered Washington’s plantation house for dinner of Dover sole, pasta stuffed with lemon ricotta, and chocolate souffle and cherry vanilla ice cream.
Trump declared the dinner “really fantastic” before returning to the White House.
Trump was Macron’s guest last July at the annual Bastille Day military parade in the centre of Paris. Macron and his wife also took Trump and America’s first lady on a tour of Napoleon’s tomb and whisked them up in the Eiffel Tower for dinner overlooking the City of Light.
Macron will be welcomed back to the White House on Tuesday with a traditional arrival ceremony featuring nearly 500 members of the US military and a 21-gun salute.
The French president’s White House day will be capped on Tuesday night with a state dinner, the highest social tribute a president bestows on an ally and partner.
Australian Associated Press