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First State Visit: Trump Hosts French President Emmanuel Macron


President Trump is hosting his first state visit tomorrow. French President Emmanuel Macron is his guest. The two leaders are very different in age and style and political belief. And yet they're said to have formed a bond. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley explains.


ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Last July, when no one else in Europe was rolling out the red carpet for Trump, French president Emmanuel Macron treated the new American president to a high-profile, pomp-filled state visit complete with dinner in the Eiffel Tower and a Bastille Day military parade down the Champs-Elysees.


BEARDSLEY: Now Trump is returning the favor. The American version comes with a state dinner and 21-gun salute. Macron will also address a joint session of Congress. Christian Makarian, deputy editor of L'Express magazine, says Emmanuel Macron has been cultivating Donald Trump.

CHRISTIAN MAKARIAN: Macron has built something which is very precious. Macron has built a special relationship between him and Donald Trump.

BEARDSLEY: Analysts say the two leaders will need all the bonhomie they can muster to work through their differences in tackling issues like trans-Atlantic trade, Russia and Iran. Historian Nicole Bacharan says despite being dismissive of NATO and Europe, Trump needs Macron.

NICOLE BACHARAN: He needs someone to talk to in Europe. He has no person to go to. He has a bad relationship with Theresa May. He has no relationship, or hardly any, with Angela Merkel. So that leaves Macron, who is young and trendy and has a sort of popularity on the world stage that Trump wants a share of.

BEARDSLEY: With Britain consumed by Brexit and Germany its coalition politics, Makarian says Macron is unique among European leaders for now.

MAKARIAN: Macron is the only boss of Europe who is allowed by the others to talk in their names. That's why he takes advantage of this position, which is not going to last for years, to show the American president that Europeans have also the possibility to help America as they did in Syria and that America needs also Europe.

BEARDSLEY: Emmanuel and Donald, as the two leaders are said to call each other, spoke on the phone daily during the joint bombing campaign of Syrian chemical weapon sites. And the French and U.S. military worked hand in glove. One of the most urgent matters the two will discuss is the Iran nuclear deal. Trump must decide in May whether the U.S. will back normalized trade with Iran in exchange for the country halting its nuclear weapons program. Europeans are solidly behind the deal and are counting on Macron to try to convince America, says Francois Clemenceau, commentator for Europe 1 radio.

FRANCOIS CLEMENCEAU: This is a new test of the capacity of Emmanuel Macron to make the American administration and the American people understand how crucial this issue is. The security in the region, in Europe, in the Middle East and beyond is at stake.

BEARDSLEY: Trump and Macron do have a few things in common. They're both outsiders who've overturned their country's political establishments, and they both have provocative communication styles. The only U.S. media Macron agreed to speak with before his trip is not The New York Times or even NPR. He'll be talking to Trump's favorite channel, Fox News. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.