French President Francois Hollande starts a visit to the United States on Monday with spats over U.S. eavesdropping and trade talks with the EU unlikely to chill a relationship now far warmer than before the 2003 U.S.-led war on Iraq.
Hollande, 59, who split from his partner last month after an affair with an actress, arrives solo for the first state visit hosted by President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle in nearly 2-1/2
American and French diplomats are preparing for talks with Iran that build on the agreement that has halted progress on and rolled back key elements of the Iranian nuclear program. French and American officials share information daily to combat terrorism around the world. Their development experts are helping farmers across Africa and on other continents boost their yields and escape poverty. In forums such as the Group of Eight and the Group of 20, the United States and France promote strong, sustainable and balanced growth, jobs and stability and we address global challenges that no country can tackle alone. At high-tech start-ups in Paris and Silicon Valley, American and French entrepreneurs are collaborating on the innovations that power the global economy.
A decade ago, few would have imagined the two countries working so closely together in so many ways. But in recent years the alliance has transformed. Since France’s return to NATO’s military command four years ago and consistent with our continuing commitment to strengthen the NATO- European Union partnership, both nations have expanded cooperation across the board. They are sovereign and independent nations that make decisions based on their respective national interests. Yet they have been able to take the alliance to a new level because their interests and values are so closely aligned.
Rooted in a friendship stretching back more than two centuries, the deepening partnership offers a model for international cooperation. Transnational challenges cannot be met by any one nation alone. More nations must step forward and share the burden and costs of leadership. More nations must meet their responsibilities for upholding global security and peace and advancing freedom and human rights.
Building on the first-step agreement with Iran, they are both united with their “P5+1” partners Britain, Germany, Russia and China and the E.U. and will meet next week in Vienna to begin discussions aimed at achieving a comprehensive solution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. In Syria, the credible threat of force paved the way for the plan to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons; now, Syria must meet its obligations. With the Syrian civil war threatening the stability of the region, including Lebanon, the international community must step up its efforts to care for the Syrian people, strengthen the moderate Syrian opposition, and work through the Geneva II process toward a political transition that delivers the Syrian people from dictatorship and terrorism.
Perhaps nowhere is both countries new partnership on more vivid display than in Africa. In Mali, French and African Union forces with U.S. logistical and information support have pushed back al-Qaeda-linked insurgents, allowing the people of Mali to pursue a democratic future. Across the Sahel, they are partnering with countries to prevent al-Qaeda from gaining new footholds. In the Central African Republic, French and African Union soldiers , backed by American airlift and support, are working to stem violence and create space for dialogue, reconciliation and swift progress to transitional elections.
Across the continent, from Senegal to Somalia, they are helping train and equip local forces so they can take responsibility for their own security. They are partnering with governments and citizens who want to strengthen democratic institutions, improve agriculture and alleviate hunger, expand access to electricity and deliver the treatment that saves lives from infectious diseases. Our two countries were the earliest and are among the strongest champions of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Alongside a revitalized alliance on the world stage, They’re also working to deepen the bilateral economic relationship. Already, France is one of America’s top export markets, and the United States is the largest customer for French goods outside the European Union, trade that supports nearly a million jobs in the two countries. Their cooperation in science and education is illustrated by existing partnerships between their universities, top research laboratories and space agencies. But as entrepreneurial societies that cherish the spirit of invention and creativity, both need to do more to lead the world in innovation.
The trade and investment partnership being pursued between the European Union and the United States is a major opportunity to build on millions of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic already supported by U.S.-E.U. trade. Such an agreement would result in more trade, more jobs and more export opportunities, including for small businesses in both of our countries. It would also build a lasting foundation for our efforts to promote growth and the global economic recovery.
While Hollande, like most other European leaders, has expressed outrage at allegations of NSA spying, the dust-up isn’t likely to make any big dent in French-American relations. The same can be said for what Hollande calls “tax evasion” by U.S.-based tech firms.
Hollande, a socialist elected in 2012, is more closely aligned in policy with Obama than the center-right Sarkozy. His fluency in English might make him an easier dinner companion than his predecessor, as well as a more conversant travel buddy when he and Obama fly to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello on Monday.