Donald Trump's Eiffel Tower chat with the French establishment's new golden boy, President Emmanuel Macron, culminated in a political M&A*
So what did Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron really talk about throughout their effusive buddy-buddy Parisian act?This being France, let’s start where things matter: gastronomy.
Yes, that dinner at Alain Ducasse’s overpriced Jules Verne restaurant at the Eiffel Tower. Cool window table with a view. Only the principals, along with wives Melania and Brigitte. The Macrons are fluent English speakers. No leaks from the Elysée Palace.
The dinner and the bill (in €)
The restaurant is part of Ducasse’s sprawling empire, managed by businessman Xavier Alberti, who’s married to Audrey Bourolleau, who happens to be the agriculture counsel to President Macron.
So it’s all in the family. And Macron’s extended family is a virtual French who’s who. A serious misconception prevails, especially in the US, that Macron is an outsider, an anti-establishment maverick. Nothing is further from the facts.
Macron is the French establishment’s golden boy. He has been groomed/supported by a vast “pragmatic” neoliberal galaxy, from the Saint Simon Foundation to the Edmond de Rothschild Group, the Montaigne Institute and the Terra Nova think-tank, modeled on the Progressive Policy Institute created by Bill Clinton and Joseph Lieberman, and whose task is to let French economic, political and social life be fertilized by American modernity.
Macron’s political party – rebranded Republic on the Move after the presidential victory – was actually invented, out of thin air, only last year, at the Montaigne Institute. Links abound with the Rockefeller Foundation, the Aspen Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the inevitable neocons and Straussians. But most of all, Macronism mirrors the influence of Les Gracques, a group of right-wing Socialist Party civil servants and corporate managers bent on having France going no-holds-barred neoliberal.
Trump could not but envy Macron’s status, which only a critical minority sees for what it is: a new Roi Soleil (“Sun King”), who controls not only the executive but also the legislative branch of government, mainstream media and his own image (Brigitte is always clad head to toe in Louis Vuitton, owned by billionaire Bernard Arnault, a staunch Macronist; the couple’s image is supervised by wily Mimi Marchand, the queen of the Paris paparazzi).
The French oligarchy is Macronist all over the spectrum. So Trump in fact is the outsider – not only in Washington but even among the Manhattan elite, who in essence despise him.
Arend Van Dam, The Netherlands
Pulling an M&A on The Donald
Macron The Sun King, a specialist in mergers and acquisitions, has had no trouble identifying and jumping into a vacuum, embracing Trump as The American Friend while the rest of the European Union remains predictably paralyzed by the ramifications of “America First”.
The official Macronist spin is that Trump, after pulling out of the Paris agreement, should not remain self-isolated when it comes to Europe. That’s a mere diversionary tactic. The real game is that Macron is as frustrated as Trump when it comes to Germany’s “very bad” trade surpluses – and, from a French perspective, austerity obsession.
So how to add a few sleepless nights to Chancellor Angela Merkel? You ratchet France’s defense spending up to the Nato 2%-of-GDP standard; you invite Trump to Paris and throw in a lavish Bastille Day military parade (complete with a band playing Daft Punk, much to Trump’s puzzlement); and you position yourself as his prime interlocutor in the EU. When a crisis comes, any crisis, Trump will be dialing the Elysée, not Berlin or Brussels.
What Macron wants for Europe is a solid capital-markets framework and a banking union; this “restructuring” would arguably bring trillions of euros into the Eurobond market. He does not have much time to convince austerity-obsessed Merkel this is the way to go.
And then there’s the Big Asia Story.
Germany – as well as the whole EU export machine – knows the future is to Go East. EU trade with China, India, Japan, South Korea and all of Southeast Asia is already larger by US$300 billion a year than EU trade with the US.
And this is happening even before the EU has granted “market economy” status to China, and before the just-signed free-trade agreement with Japan.
The New Silk Roads, renamed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), with their promise of total Eurasian connectivity, are a certified win-win as far as German industrialists and selected EU investors are concerned. In contrast, in US Think Tankland, the overwhelming tone of the analyses is to deride BRI as a “scheme” destined to fail.
Macron is very much aware of all these disconnections. And he’s moving all across the spectrum, trying to occupy any vacuum. He has identified that Trump’s would-be, real Russia policy has been strait-jacked by the US deep state. So he’s actively talking to Vladimir Putin – and that will certainly include business benefits along the way.
He’s not ostracizing Iran. On the contrary; he knows future, massive European investment in the Iranian economy – from energy to infrastructure – trumps infantile demonization. He could have convinced Trump that to go against the Iran nuclear deal is a losing proposition. Most likely he didn’t – because he knows French, not US, companies will pick up extra business.
He’ll always have Paris
And that brings us to what they actually discussed in detail: Syria. Macron, a certified national-security hawk, is now way beyond the “Assad must go” dead-ender. And Trump could not but agree when Macron stressed that the No 1 threat is Salafi-jihadi terror.
So now we have Putin, Trump and Macron practically in sync. Macron has certainly identified how the gloom-and-doom Syria narrative is moving sideways – fast. Aleppo is already focusing on its
jihadi-free future. China is already thinking of Syria as a BRI node.
EU officials spinning that without regime change, even further on down the road, the union will not finance Syria’s postwar reconstruction are issuing a hollow threat; Damascus has already announced that China, Russia and Iran will have preference. Nato, after all, has been on the side of regime change since 2011.
It’s unclear whether Macron has imprinted on the mind of The American Friend that having Syria jihadi-free, together, makes total business sense – and opens the way to further business deals, on all fronts. Of course, assuming the current and future ceasefires hold, and rogue deep-state elements do not disrupt the scenario.
So now it’s back to the swamp – and the same old hysterical Russiagate 24/7.
At least he will always have Paris.
*M&A: Mergers and Acquisitions
Josetxo Ezcurra, Tlaxcala