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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 September 2018

Trump invites Emmanuel Macron for state visit

The French president will be the first overseas leader invited to the White House

French president Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump during the annual Bastille Day military parade in Paris. AFP/ALAIN JOCARD
French president Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump during the annual Bastille Day military parade in Paris. AFP/ALAIN JOCARD

President Donald Trump will invite French president Emmanuel Macron on the first state visit of the administration, the White House confirmed on Tuesday.

Mr Trump is the first US president in decades to wrap up his opening year without offering a counterpart the honour of a state visit, a diplomatic tool used to impress and showcase ties between allies.

The designation means Mr Macron will be welcomed with a showy arrival ceremony on the White House lawn, including a 21-gun salute, followed by private meetings with the president and a joint news conference before American and French journalists. Mr Macron will also be the guest of honour at a glitzy state dinner, typically attended by hundreds of guests and meticulously planned by the first lady.

Mr Trump was the French president’s special guest at an annual Bastille Day celebration last year that coincided with the 100th anniversary of the US entrance into the First World War. Mr Trump apparently was so inspired by the grand military parade in the heart of Paris that he later called for a similar display of US military hardware in Washington this year.

CNN reported on plans to invite France’s leader, which was later confirmed by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. A formal announcement, including the date, is pending.

Mr Macron, who is also new to the presidency, and Mr Trump met several times last year and spoke by telephone this month. They first met last May in Belgium and gripped each other's hands so tightly during an extended handshake that Mr Trump’s knuckles appeared to turn white.

Mr Trump was celebrated during a series of state visits as he toured Asia last November.

During the presidential campaign, Mr Trump spoke dismissively of state dinners, a key component of a state visit. In 2015, Mr Trump panned president Barack Obama's decision to welcome Chinese president Xi Jinping on a state visit that year.

“I would not be throwing (Xi) a dinner,” Mr Trump said at the time. “I would get him a McDonald’s hamburger and say we’ve got to get down to work.”

Xi was among those who feted Mr Trump last year, pouring on the pageantry as he welcomed Mr Trump to Beijing on what the Chinese billed as a “state visit, plus”.

Not since Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s has a president ended his first year in office without hosting a foreign leader for a state visit, according to the White House Historical Association.

Mr Coolidge assumed office in 1923 after the sudden death of President Warren G Harding, and was elected to a full term in 1924. He didn’t hold a state dinner until October 1926, for Queen Marie of Romania, according to the association.

Every president since Mr Coolidge has hosted at least one state visit in their first year.

Mr Trump last year accepted an invitation for a state visit to Britain from the UK's Queen Elizabeth. A date still has not been set.

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