WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump will travel to Paris on Wednesday to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron where the two leaders will seek to work together on Syria and countering terrorism, while avoiding the thorny issues that have divided them.
Trump and Macron — both political newcomers who scored upset victories in their presidential elections — have taken very different positions in areas such as climate change and trade.
U.S. and French officials have said Trump’s visit to Paris will allow the leaders to focus on those places where their interests overlap, including resolving the conflict in Syria and combating global terrorism.
Macron invited Trump to France to celebrate July 14 Bastille Day festivities and to commemorate the 100 years since U.S. troops entered into World War One.
“It’s for France a unique opportunity to show French military power … and that’s very important for Trump,” said Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer, director of the Paris office of think-tank the German Marshall Fund.
Trump has repeatedly hammered away at European allies in NATO for not paying their fair share on military spending.
Although France has not met NATO’s target of spending 2 percent of GDP on the military, Trump is satisfied that the country is very close to meeting that goal, a White House official said on Tuesday.
Trump will arrive in Paris early Thursday morning. He will participate in a welcoming ceremony at Les Invalides, where he will tour a French war museum and visit the tomb of Napoleon. Then Trump and Macron will hold a bilateral meeting followed by a news conference, the White House said.
Macron and Trump, along with their wives, plan to dine at a restaurant in the Eiffel Tower Thursday night.
Trump’s brief trip to France follows his attendance of the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany last week. The United States was left relatively isolated during the summit, when it reaffirmed Trump’s decision to pull out of a landmark international accord reached in Paris in 2015 to fight climate change.
In hard-fought negotiations in Germany, Macron tried to soften U.S. language on climate policy.
“They have completely contrasting messages, where Trump has argued for ‘America first,’ Emmanuel Macron is arguing for a kind of cosmopolitan globalist vision of France and of Europe,” said Erik Jones, director of European and Eurasian Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
“That is going to create very sharp contrast when the two meet in France,” Jones said.
Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Lisa Shumaker