President Biden underscored Thursday the long ties between the U.S. and France as he welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, for the first official state visit under his administration.
Mr. Biden and first lady Jill Biden extended handshakes and warm embraces to the couple as they arrived for the red carpet ceremony on the South Lawn lined with hundreds of Francophiles waving French and American flags.
“It’s an honor, a genuine honor to host you for the first state visit of my administration, and to celebrate the strength and vitality of the great friendship between France and the United States of America,” Mr. Biden said in brief remarks.
“Our history has been shaped by the courage of the women and men who crossed the Atlantic, carrying within their hearts the flame of liberty,” he said. “Today that flame burns more brightly than ever and the alliance between our two nations remains essential to our mutual defense.”
The Biden administration has billed the official visit as a symbol of the strong ties between the U.S. and its oldest ally and a chance for the two countries to align closely on global issues such as climate change, the war in Ukraine and competition with China.
But key points of contention are expected to surface behind closed doors when the two leaders meet for a bilateral discussion in the Oval Office.
Mr. Macron is among a chorus of European officials who are up in arms over Mr. Biden’s $740 billion Inflation Reduction Act.
Europeans say Mr. Biden’s seminal legislative accomplishment, which includes generous tax credits for U.S.-manufactured electric vehicles, threatens to cripple their manufacturing as automakers move operations across the Atlantic to capitalize on the incentives, sucking away jobs and investment money as the bloc braces for economic headwinds.
Mr. Macron reportedly chided the protectionist provisions in the law as “super aggressive” in a closed-door meeting Wednesday with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, according to Agence France-Presse.
The friction over the tax and climate law add to the choppy relationship between the U.S. and France under Mr. Biden’s tenure.
Relations between the U.S. and France hit a low point last year after the Biden administration moved forward with a technology-sharing pact with Britain and Australia, known as AUKUS, that aims to counter China.
The agreement undercut a multibillion-dollar conventional submarine deal between France and Australia signed in 2016. In the fallout, France briefly recalled its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia in September 2021.
The tensions are expected to dissipate, as the day of fanfare culminates with an official state dinner at the White House.
Mrs. Biden said in a preview of the evening festivities that the state dinner will represent “an expression of welcome and friendship.”
The menu includes butter-poached Maine lobster and a selection of award-winning American cheeses among other delicacies, “inspired by the shared colors of our flags — red, white and blue — and our common values: liberty and democracy, equality and fellowship,” Mrs. Biden said.
“These form the bedrock upon which our enduring friendship was built,” the first lady added.
The event will feature a performance by American singer-songwriter Jon Batiste, whose music is shaped by French and American culture, influences he acquired in his upbringing in New Orleans.