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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

Trump begins Paris visit with attack on France's Emmanuel Macron

His tweet soured the beginning of a trip to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end World War I.

Mr and Mrs Trump arrived in Paris on Friday evening. EPA
Mr and Mrs Trump arrived in Paris on Friday evening. EPA

President Donald Trump began a weekend visit to Paris with an attack on his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, for proposing Europe create its own continental military force.

Mr Trump sent a tweet calling Mr Macron’s proposal “very insulting” as his presidential plane landed Friday evening for celebrations with world leaders commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

Mr Macron said in a radio interview this week that a “strong and sovereign Europe” was needed to defend the continent’s interests against China, Russia and “even the US”.

“We can’t defend Europe if we don’t have a real European army,” he said. “We must have a Europe that can defend itself more, without just relying on the US”

Mr Trump is scheduled to meet with Mr Macron on Saturday. The rest of his trip will be devoted to events marking the World War I anniversary, including an Armistice Day ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe and a luncheon for leaders at the Élysée Palace. Mr Macron’s office declined to comment on Trump’s tweet.

Mr Trump has demanded that NATO countries spend more on their own defence and has questioned whether the US should remain in the alliance. Mr Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have both publicly questioned whether Europe can depend on the US to come to its aid in the event of war.

Mr Macron also criticised Mr Trump’s plan to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which the US says Russia has violated. Europe is the “main victim” of the US president's decision, Mr Macron said in remarks made as he toured World War I battlefields ahead of the centenary of the November 11 armistice, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Earlier this summer, Mr Trump imposed steel and aluminium tariffs on Europe, which retaliated with similar duties on American products including bourbon and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. In July, Mr Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced they would halt the tit-for-tat penalties and proceed with additional negotiations.

Trump has criticised existing European tariffs and regulations on autos, and has said he believes it’s unfair that barriers are higher for American auto manufacturers seeking to sell in Europe. But the elimination of tariffs could have an acute impact on French companies including Renault SA and PSA Group, the maker of Peugeot and Citroen vehicles, who don’t sell cars in the US but would face increased competition in their home markets.

The Trump administration reimposed sanctions on Iran over European opposition, blacklisting hundreds of Iranian firms and individuals. The sanctions stem from Mr Trump’s efforts to exit or renegotiate an international deal struck during President Barack Obama’s administration offering economic relief in exchange for a freeze of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

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Read more:

How the First World War shaped the borders of the Middle East

The forgotten Muslim heroes of WWI

Forgotten Muslim heroes of Great War immortalised in London exhibition

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Mr Macron and other European leaders have repeatedly criticised Mr Trump’s efforts to undermine the deal, and have sought to create a special mechanism that would allow the bloc to avert US sanctions and continue trading with Iran.

That effort hasn’t yet yielded results, and the Trump administration has warned that countries hosting a so-called "special purpose vehicle" to subvert the sanctions could face penalties themselves. European leaders say maintaining trade ties is essential to keep Iran from exiting the deal and restarting development of nuclear weapons.

In addition to his meetings with Macron, Trump is expected to visit the Belleau Wood battlefield and American cemetery on Saturday, and speak at a Veterans Day ceremony Sunday at the Suresnes American Cemetery.