Monday 21 May 2018

Macron's Congress speech takes swipe at Trump as he demands climate change action

French President Emmanuel Macron, applauded by US Vice President Mike Pence, left, and Speaker Paul Ryan, arrives to address a joint meeting of Congress in Washington. Photo: Reuters
French President Emmanuel Macron, applauded by US Vice President Mike Pence, left, and Speaker Paul Ryan, arrives to address a joint meeting of Congress in Washington. Photo: Reuters

Ben Riley-Smith, Nick Allen and Rozina Sabur

French President Emmanuel Macron demanded climate change action and defended the Iran nuclear deal yesterday in a pointed rebuke of Donald Trump's "America First" foreign policy.

Addressing a joint session of the US Congress, he called on America to stay engaged in the world in a rebuttal of the US president's isolationist instincts.

French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Donald Trump at an earlier joint press conference. Photo: Getty Images
French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Donald Trump at an earlier joint press conference. Photo: Getty Images

Mr Macron said there was no "Planet B" as he predicted the United States will one day return to the Paris climate change agreement.

The French leader also criticised Mr Trump for wanting to rip up the Iran agreement, but agreed Tehran must never be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons.

On tariffs, he warned that abandoning free and fair trade would destroy jobs, increase prices and punish the middle classes.

He also said global threats would spiral and the United Nations and Nato would be weaker if the US stopped fighting for its values overseas.

"Today, the call we hear is the call of history," Mr Macron said in an emotive call to arms.

"This is the time of determination and courage. What we cherish is at stake. What we love is in danger. We have no choice but to prevail and together we shall prevail."

But he warned: "We can choose isolationism. But closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world. If we decide to open our eyes wider, we will be much stronger."

The speech ended a three-day US state visit that has seen Mr Macron reaffirm his position as the world leader with the closest personal relationship with Mr Trump. Their touchy-feely series of press calls has made headlines and was referenced jokingly by Mr Macron in his address.

The speech - the first by a world leader to a joint session of US law-makers since 2016 - showed Mr Macron willing to publicly challenge Mr Trump.

On climate change, he asked: "What is the meaning of our lives if we spend it destroying the future of our children?"

He said it was time to "make our planet great again" and predicted that the US would "one day" return to the Paris climate change agreement.

That triggered the biggest applause as Democrats leapt to their feet while Republicans gave a more lukewarm response - one of a number of points where his speech split the chamber.

On the Iran nuclear deal, Mr Macron pledged France would stay in the 2015 agreement and criticised Mr Trump's hints that he might withdraw.

He repeated Tuesday's call for a wider deal to tackle Iran's ballistic missile programme and behaviour in Syria and Yemen as well as nuclear issues.

He pledged: "Iran shall never possess any nuclear weapons. Not now. Not in five years. Not in 10 years. Never."

Last night, Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president, rejected changes to the nuclear agreement, saying that if the deal stays in place, "it stays in full".

Mr Macron repeatedly challenged Mr Trump's instinct to disengage from the world - a prominent foreign policy pledge of his 2016 election campaign.

"Today, the international community needs to step up our game and build the 21st century world order based on the perennial principles we established together after the Second World War. We must remember the warning of president Roosevelt: freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream," he said.

"It must be fought for, protected, handed on for them to do the same."

The comments will be seen as a call for Mr Trump to stand by Nato and the UN and remain engaged in the Middle East, especially Syria.

On Twitter, Mr Trump said he was "looking forward" to the address but maintained silence during the speech

© Daily Telegraph, London

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