WASHINGTON (Circa) -- French President Emmanuel Macron turned on the charm while on his recent state visit with President Donald Trump, but behind the bromance, Macron had an agenda.
The Macron-Trump bromance budded like Washington's famous spring cherry blossoms during the three-day visit, the first official state visit of the Trump presidency. The two world leaders could be seen embracing and praising one-another throughout the trip, showcasing their special relationship.
"The wonderful friendship we have developed over the last year is a testament to the enduring friendship that binds our two nations," said Trump after greeting Macron and his wife, Brigitte, on Tuesday. " It is truly fitting that we're holding our first official state visit with the leader of America's oldest ally, the proud nation of France."
But while the hugs and kind words were plentiful, Macron's statements made it clear the two have some pronounced differences when it comes to policy. From foreign affairs to trade issues, Trump and Macron represent divergent philosophies. Trump's "America First" policy focuses on U.S. concerns first, even if they risk the international agreements that have created the current world order. Macron is a steadfast believer in the post-Cold War system created by France and the U.S., and he wasn't afraid to make his feelings clear to U.S. leaders.
"Our objective is clear, Iran shall never possess nuclear weapons," Macron told Congress. "Not now, not in five years, not in 10 years. Never."
How Macron wants to pursue that goal is differs drastically from Trump's critical view of the Iran nuclear deal. The French president takes a pragmatic view, and has noted that the agreement is better than no deal at all. Trump campaigned on scrapping the deal from the outset of his presidency and has told Congress to fix it.
That said, Trump has continued to waive sanctions on Iran every three months, as required by U.S. law, and his administration has repeatedly certified the Islamic Republic's compliance with the deal's prescriptions. But Trump's patience on the Iran nuclear issue may come to an end on May 12, the next deadline for a sanctions waiver. Should Trump refuse to sign the waiver, it would be tantamount to a U.S. withdrawal, a move which threatens to collapse the agreement entirely.
"It won't be so easy for them to restart," Trump told a reporter who asked about the possibility of Iran restarting its nuclear weapons program should Trump pull out of the deal.
But France and the U.S., along with the U.K., are in the midst of putting together a seperate agreement which would address Iran's ballistic missile program, which critics note is not covered in the nuclear agreement. It appears Macron may have helped sell Trump on that possibility.
"We can be flexible. You know, in life you have to be flexible, and as leaders of countries, you have to show flexibility," said Trump, appearing during a press conference with Macron on Wednesday.
"That is why we stand together in Syria and the Sahel today," Macron told a joint-session of the U.S. Congress Wednesday. "To fight together against these terrorist groups which seek to destroy everything for which we stand."
The U.S. and France, along with the U.K., partnered together to strike Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons program earlier this month, but Trump has made clear he does not see the U.S. in Syria for the long-haul. Macron is worried a premature U.S. withdrawal could lead to terrorism across the globe. For the near-term, Trump is following the advice of his national security team, and will keep the 2,000 U.S. forces currently in Syria in place.
Macron may be able to convince Trump on staying in Syria by playing up the terrorism angle. Trump criticized the Obama administration for pulling out of Iraq in 2011, a decision he believes led to the rise of the Islamic State.
"We need free and fair trade, for sure," Macron told Congress, receiving a huge round of applause.
But his view of free and fair clashes with Trump's. France, along with other European partners, has been particularly vocal in its criticism of the Trump administration's tariffs, particularly on steel and aluminum. Trump believes many current trade deals, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and others, are unfair to the U.S., and he has instituted tariffs on certain products coming into the country.
There may be room for opportunity for Macron on this issue. Trump has already signaled he would open to renegotiating trade agreements on a bilateral basis, and France as a close ally could utilize that relationship. Pushing for an agreement on steel was one of Macron's top priorities, according to ABC news.
Time will tell if the French leader's charm offensive was effective, but it appears the Trump-Macron friendship will endure.