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Biden, Macron vow unity amid trade row

China Daily | Updated: 2022-12-03 08:04

Relatives of Elizaveta, 94, use a cargo cart to get her to an evacuation train in Kherson, Ukraine, on Thursday. Millions have been displaced since the conflict broke out in February. EVGENIY MALOLETKA/AP

Leaders of US, France close ranks on Russia as tweaks on subsidies flagged

WASHINGTON — Presidents Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron vowed to maintain a united front against Russia on Thursday amid growing worries about waning support for Ukraine in the United States and Europe. Biden also signaled he might be willing to tweak aspects of his signature climate legislation that have raised concerns with France and other European allies.

Biden honored Macron with a grand state dinner on Thursday evening — the first of the US president's coronavirus-shadowed presidency for a foreign leader. But following up on Biden's upbeat comments might not go as smoothly as that fancy affair. Republicans who are about to take control of the House of Representatives have shown less willingness than Biden to spend billions on Ukraine, and Democratic lawmakers said on Thursday they were not about to jump back into the climate legislation.

The two leaders pledged to close ranks in helping Ukraine, as Western powers were trying to rally support for Ukraine.

Russia meanwhile accused the US and NATO of playing a direct and dangerous role in the crisis and said Washington had turned Kyiv into an existential threat for Moscow which it could not ignore.

In a bid to cripple Moscow, the European Union tentatively agreed on Thursday on a $60 a barrel price cap on Russian seaborne oil, according to diplomats. The measure would need to be approved by all EU governments in a written procedure by Friday.

Biden and Macron said in a joint statement after Oval Office talks on Thursday that they were committed to holding Russia to account for "war crimes" in Ukraine, Reuters reported.

Biden told reporters he was prepared to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin "if in fact there is an interest in him deciding he's looking for a way to end the war, "but added that Putin "hasn't done that yet".

Strongest suggestion

It was Biden's strongest suggestion so far that he would be prepared to sit down with Putin, Agence France-Presse commented, but Macron said they both agreed "we will never urge the Ukrainians to make a compromise that will not be acceptable for them".

In Washington, Republicans are set to take control of the House, where GOP leader Kevin McCarthy has said his party's lawmakers will not write a "blank check" for Ukraine. Across the Atlantic, Macron's efforts to keep Europe united will be tested by the mounting costs of supporting Ukraine in the war and as Europe battles rising energy prices that threaten to derail the post-pandemic economic recovery.

Following lengthy talks, the two leaders also signaled that they had calmed the waters on a burgeoning US-EU trade dispute.

The state visit — the first such formal occasion since Biden took office in January 2021 — symbolized how Washington and Paris have buried last year's bitter spat over the way Australia pulled out of a French submarine deal in favor of acquiring US nuclear subs instead.

At a lavish, late dinner under a glass pavilion on the White House South Lawn, Biden concluded his toast by saying "Vive la France (long live France)!"

The occasion had seemed to be at threat of being overshadowed by a dispute over US subsidies for the emerging green technology economy. However, both leaders signaled they had managed at least to defuse the row following talks lasting one hour and 45 minutes.

"We agreed to discuss practical steps to coordinate and align our approaches so that we can strengthen and secure the supply chains, manufacturing and innovation on both sides of the Atlantic," Biden told their joint news conference.

"We agreed to resynchronize our approaches," echoed Macron.

The issue revolves around Biden's signature policy, the Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA, which is set to pour billions of dollars into environmentally friendly industries, with strong backing for US-based manufacturers.

European Union governments have been crying foul, threatening to launch a trade war by subsidizing their own green economy sector.

Biden stressed that there would be "tweaks" so that European companies were not unfairly treated.


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