WASHINGTON — French President Emmanuel Macron told a joint session of Congress today that the two countries need to work together to stem the “rampaging work of extreme nationalism” and expressed confidence — to the sustained cheers of Democrats — that the U.S. will rejoin the Paris climate accord.
Macron, who was feted last night at a lavish state dinner, became the first foreign head of state to address Congress during the Trump presidency.
“In this Capitol Rotunda, the birth of Martin Luther King, assassinated 50 years ago, reminds us of the inspiration of African-American leaders, artists, writers, who have become part of our common heritage. We celebrate among them James Baldwin and Richard Wright, whom France hosted on our soil,” he said. “We have shared the history of civil rights. France’s Simone de Beauvoir became a respected figure in the movement for gender equality in America in the ’70s. Women’s rights have long been a fundamental driver for our societies on both sides of the Atlantic. This explains why the #MeToo movement has recently had such a deep resonance in France.”
Macron called on the longtime allies to once again present a united front “because now, going beyond our bilateral ties, beyond our very special relationship, Europe and the United States must face together the global challenges of this century.”
“And we cannot take for granted our transatlantic history and bonds. At the core, our Western values themselves are at risk,” he said. “We have to succeed facing these challenges, and we cannot succeed in forgetting our principles and our history.”
“…Together with our international allies and partners, we are facing inequalities created by globalization, threats to the planets, our common good, attacks on democracy through the rise of illiberalism, and the destabilization of our international community by new powers and criminal states. All these risks aggrieve our citizens. Both in the United States and in Europe, we are living in a time of anger and fear, because of these current global threats. But these feelings do not build anything. You can play with fears and angers for a time, but they do not construct anything.”
The French president added that “we can choose isolationism, withdrawal and nationalism,” as it “can be tempting to us as a temporary remedy to our fears.”
“But closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world. It will not douse, but inflame the fears of our citizens. We have to keep our eyes wide open to the new risks right in front of us,” he continued. “I’m convinced that if we decide to open our eyes wider, we will be stronger, we will overcome the dangers, we will not let the rampaging work of extreme nationalism shake a world full of hopes for greater prosperity.”
Macron stressed that “it is a critical moment,” because “if we do not act with urgency as a global community, I am convinced that the international institutions, including the United Nations and NATO, will no longer be able to exercise a mandate and stabilizing influence.”
“We will then inevitably and severely undermine the liberal order we built after World War II. Other powers with the strongest strategy and ambition will then fill the void we would leave empty. Other powers will not hesitate once again to advocate their own model to shape the 21st century world order,” he added.
“Personally, if you ask me, I do not share the fascination for new strong powers, the abandonment of freedom and the illusion of nationalism.”
This was met with a standing ovation from lawmakers.
“This requires more than ever the United States’ involvement, as your role was decisive for creating and safeguarding today’s free world. The United States is the one who invented this multilateralism. You are the one now who has to help to preserve and re-invent it,” Macron said. “This strong multilateralism will not outshine our national cultures and national identities. It is exactly the other way around: A strong multilateralism will allow our cultures and identities to be respected, to be protected and to flourish freely together.”
“Why? Because precisely our own culture is based, on both sides of the Atlantic, of this — on this unique taste for freedom, on this unique attachment for liberty and peace. This strong multilateralism is the unique option compatible with our nations, our cultures, our identities. With the U.S. president, with the support of every 535 members of this joint session representing the whole American nation, we can actively contribute together to building the 21st century world order for our people.”
The French leader added, to more applause from Congress, “I believe that against ignorance, we have education; against inequalities, development; against cynicism, trust and good faith; against fanaticism, culture; against disease and epidemics, medicine; against the threats on the planet, science.”
“I believe in concrete action. I believe the solutions are in our hands. I believe in the liberation of the individual, and in the freedom and responsibility of everyone to build their own lives and pursue happiness,” he said. “I believe in the power of intelligently regulated market economies. We are experiencing the positive impact of our current economic globalization, with innovations, with jobs creations. We see, however, the abuses of globalized capitalism and digital disruptions, which jeopardize the stability of our economies and democracies. I believe facing these challenges requires the opposite of massive deregulation and extreme nationalism.”
Then, in a rebuke of President Trump’s tariffs, Macron said, “Commercial war is not the proper answer to this evolution. We need a free and fair trade, for sure.”
The French president made a pitch for stronger environmental policies, as well. “Some people think that securing current industries and their jobs is more urgent than transforming our economies to meet the global challenge of climate change. I hear — I hear these concerns. But we must find a smooth transition to a low-carbon economy,” he said.
“Because what is the meaning of our life, really, if we work and live destroying the planet, while sacrificing the future of our children? What is the meaning of our life if our decision — our conscious decision is to reduce the opportunities for our children, our grandchildren? By polluting the oceans, not mitigating C02 emissions, and destroying our biodiversity, we are killing our planet. Let us face it: There is no planet B.”
While many members of Congress enthusiastically agreed, Macron acknowledged that “on this issue, it may happen we have disagreements between the United States and France.”
“It may happen, like in all families. But that’s for me a short-term disagreement. On the long run, we will have to face the same realities and we’re just citizens of the same planet. So we will have to face it… I’m sure one day the United States will come back and join the Paris Agreement,” he said.
Macron also noted that “to protect our democracies, we have to fight against the ever-growing virus of fake news, which exposes our people to irrational fear and imaginary risks.” He also emphasized the need to stop terrorist recruitment online.
“The terrorist threat is even more dangerous when it is combined with the nuclear proliferation threat,” he added. “We must, therefore, be stricter than ever with countries seeking to acquire the nuclear bomb.”