© 2024 South Carolina Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Macron To Press Trump On Trade And Iran Nuclear Deal


The leaders of two of America's closest European allies will be in Washington, D.C., to meet with President Trump this week. French President Emmanuel Macron is up first. He is arriving today for a state visit, and then later in the week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be in Washington. To talk about today's visit by French President Macron, we're joined by Francois Bujon de l'Estang. He's a former French ambassador to the United States, and he joins us from Paris. Ambassador, good morning.

FRANCOIS BUJON DE L'ESTANG: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So is it safe to say that President Trump and President Macron seem like very different people, I mean, in terms of age, in terms of style, in terms of political beliefs?

DE L'ESTANG: They are different in many ways, you're right. In age, first of all, they belong to two different generations. But one thing makes them closer. They are both relatively new in their positions, so they are still in their beginner years I would say. Yet they have had many, many occasions to interact in several summits - G20s, G7s and so on, - and also, of course, bilaterally, particularly when President Macron hosted President Trump in Paris last July 14 for Bastille Day.

GREENE: Well, you know, one of the big issues that is sure to come up for France and for the E.U. is the Iran nuclear deal. President Trump has been indicating that he wants out. I mean, how important is it for Macron to try and keep the United States engaged in that deal? And what do you think Macron's strategy is to win Trump over if it's possible?

DE L'ESTANG: Well, it will be an uphill battle, obviously, given what President Trump has said publicly about the deal. And this is becoming a very hot subject because there is a deadline on May the 12. President Trump has given that kind of ultimatum, if I may use that word, to his partners in the deal - the Europeans mostly but also Russia and China, who are signatories as well - to try and improve the deal so that he can continue to waive further sanctions. And therefore, it's becoming very, very close. It is an essential deal. I think it's been hailed as a great success when it was signed in July 2015. France was very instrumental in bringing about the deal and in making it tougher actually and tighter. And we are absolutely convinced, like our European partners Germany and Britain, that there is no plan B.

GREENE: You say no plan B, but is there a plan that Europe has to go forward with this deal without the United States? Is that possible?

DE L'ESTANG: Well, that is possible, of course. The United States are one of the signatories, and there are other signatories who want to stick by the deal. I mentioned the three big Europeans, but again China and Russia belong in that camp as well. Everybody but the United States seems to be satisfied with the deal and with the way the deal has been respected, really, enforced (ph) by Iran. So, yes, we are sticking by the deal, and we hope that the United States will also because what would be the alternative? The alternative would be probably that Iran, if the U.S. were to accept the idea of new sanctions, would decide that they'll resume enriching uranium, that they'll resume their nuclear program. And that might stir a nuclear arms race in the whole of the Gulf area.

GREENE: Although, Mr. Ambassador, is it possible that if the United States and President Trump want to get tougher in some way to make sure that Iran is complying, is that something that France would be open to?

DE L'ESTANG: No. How can you get tougher? I mean, we are really monitoring the implementation of this deal. It's been entrusted to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. The Atomic Energy Agency is satisfied that the Iranians are complying. You cannot make it tougher. It is tough enough. And what you can do, try to do, is to complement it with another agreement on ballistic proliferation because that was not included in the agreement of July 2015.

GREENE: Well, Mr. Ambassador, I think about Iran coming up, I mean, probably trade, Syria - a lot of big issues are going to come up at this meeting. Is there pressure on President Macron to get something out of this meeting with President Trump?

DE L'ESTANG: Not immediate pressure, but he's certainly expected, not only in France but in other countries of Europe, to try and convince President Trump over Iran and maybe over other items as well. You mentioned Syria, for instance. I think that President Trump has declared a few weeks ago that he wanted to pull the American troops out of Syria by the end of this year. And there are a number of arguments that run contrary to that and that would make us happier probably if President Trump were to decide eventually to maintain some American troops in the northeastern part of Syria because it seems to us to be important to the stability and to the diplomatic perspectives because we still have to find an exit.

GREENE: So it would be good for Macron to appear that he had convinced Trump in some way on some of these issues.

DE L'ESTANG: Certainly. It would be good for Macron to try and prove that he has some leverage, that he has the ear of President Trump. Everybody knows that they have a confident relationship. That is one thing. But he has to bring some deliverables as well.

GREENE: Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much for the time. We appreciate it.

DE L'ESTANG: Thank you very much.

GREENE: That was former French Ambassador to the United States Francois Bujon de l'Estang. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.