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What the papers said 26 April 2018

rfi English, Apr 26

What the dailies are saying about President Emmanuel Macron's visit to America; and how the political opposition here in France feels the US trip has gone.

Yesterday we looked at what the American papers were saying about President Emmanuel Macron.

Today we'll scrutinise the French angle on Macron’s three-day state visit to the United States.

Le Monde puts the emphasis on Iran, with a main headline suggesting that Trump and Macron have struggled to get over their differences on the existing nuclear deal with Tehran.

Trump set the tone on Tuesday, sitting beside Macron in the White House and blasting the 2015 deal signed between Iran and the UN as "terrible," "a disaster".

The French president suggested that it might be more prudent to work towards a new, better agreement. Macron would like to see other regional problems, like the Syrian conflict, return to the centre of international attention.

The Iranian president Hassan Rouhani is hopping mad: the original deal was signed by seven nations, he points out. And now two guys in Washington decide that we all need something different. "What's the problem? Who gives you the right?" Rouhani rhetorically asked Donald Trump.

"You have no political experience," he told the American president. "You have no legal experience. You have no understanding of international treaties. How could a shopkeeper, a trader, a builder of skyscrapers have an opinion on international affairs?"

Whatever you think about the way Rouhani runs the shop, those are reasonable questions.

Moscow, Brussels and Berlin have also said they see nothing wrong with the 2015 agreement.

Trump has until 12 May to decide the fate of the existing deal with Teheran.

Macron charms Congress

Le Figaro is worried that Macron may damage his own image in attempting to drag Trump back into the multifaceted modern world.

The French leader certainly seduced the combined houses of the American legislature with his speech condemning isolationism, closure, and ignorance.

He spoke against any rejection of freedom in the name of the "dangerous illusion" of nationalism.

He warned that there is no alternative to a strict respect for the terms of the 2015 Paris climate deal.

And he reminded senators and members of Congress that there are never any winners in trade wars, that the rules of the World Trade Organisation have got to be followed.

About the only real point of convergence between the two men is on the question of fake news. Macron described the phenomenon as a "virus" saying that "without truth, there can be no democracy".

The end of Jupiter?

Le Figaro also notes that the political opposition here in France is unanimous in feeling that Macron was wasting his time in Washington.

Laurent Wauquiez of the right-wing Republicans would have liked to see a more spirited resistance by the French leader to the bullying Trump, especially on the Iranian question. Instead of bringing Trump into line with the six other signatories, says Wauquiez, Macron has left the door open to further negotiations between seven angry men.

"Macron's diplomatic efforts are just failure after failure," according to the right-wing leader.

The Socialists are not much more enthusiastic.

Matthias Fekl, very briefly François Hollande's interior minister, now Socialist Party spokesman on international affairs, says the presidential charm offensive has not changed anything substantial.

"On the question of Iran. We are looking at a simple alignment of the French position with American demands. And that's very serious," says the forgotten former minister.

And the French left is also upset at Trump's praise for Macron's immigration and asylum bill.

Socialist former presidential contender Benôit Hammon spoke ironically of an "emblematic" gesture.

Communist deputy Elsa Faucillon said Trump's approbation was "the crowning of a shameful episode".

Florian Philippot of the far-right Patriots party says Macron allowed himself to be treated like a kid by the American leader, holding hands, smiling inanely, even allowing Trump to brush dandruff of his suit.

"That's the end of the myth of the president as Jupiter," says Philippot, referring to Macron's modest campaign promise to rule like the all-powerful god of the Roman gods. As everybody knows, gods don't have dandruff.

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