French President Emmanuel Macron received a warm, three-minute standing ovation from U.S. lawmakers Wednesday before delivering — in English — a rare address to Congress that underlined the allies’ differing policy goals.
“Our two nations are rooted in the same soil, grounded in the ideals of the American and French revolutions,” Macron said, drawing on the countries’ shared histories.
“We have worked together for the universal ideals of liberty, tolerance and equal rights,” he added, hailing Congress as a “sanctuary of democracy.”
After multiple meetings with U.S. President Donald Trump and a lavish state dinner on Tuesday at the White House, Macron sought to expand on his world vision — and convince America not to retreat from the world stage.
“Today, the international community needs to step up our game and build the 21th-century world order based on the perennial principle we established together after World War II — the rule of law,” Macron said.
“We can build the 21st-century world order based on a new breed of multilateralism, based on a more effective, accountable, and result oriented multilateralism,” he said.
“The United States is the one who invented this multilateralism. You’re the ones now who have to help to preserve and reinvent it.”
It’s the first time a president from France has addressed Congress in more than a decade, but follows a tradition of foreign leaders appearing at the U.S. Capitol.
Throughout his time in office, Trump has displayed a strong isolationist streak. He has opted more often than not to remove the U.S. from its international obligations with other nations, including his decision to pull the U.S. out of the historic Paris Climate Agreement and looming threat to end U.S. participation in the international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program.
Macron pleaded for free and fair global trade, warning against the threat of trade “war” between allied nations.
“We need a free and fair trade, for sure,” Macron said. “A commercial war opposing allies is not consistent with our mission, with our history, with our current commitments for global security.”
Biting U.S. trade sanctions on European steel and aluminum will enter into force in coming weeks unless Trump agrees to sign a waiver. If he refuses, there are fears of a full-fledged trade war.
Macron also touched upon Iran, saying Wednesday the country must not be allowed to ever obtain nuclear weapons.
The United States, France and their allies have a “clear” objective with Tehran, he said.
“Iran shall never possess any nuclear weapons – not now, not in five years, not in 10 years,” Macron said. “Never.”
He insisted, though, that opposing Iranian nuclear ambitions “should never lead us to war in the Middle East. … Let us not be naive on one side. Let us not create new wars ourselves, on the other side.”
Earlier on his visit, Macron pushed Trump to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump has criticized harshly, and forge a new approach that would also incorporate other U.S. and European concerns.
On Tuesday, the two leaders pledged to seek stronger measures to contain Iran but Trump made no commitments to stay in the 2015 nuclear deal. He also threatened Tehran with retaliation if it restarted its nuclear program.
Macron has pushed for a new approach that would see the United States and Europe agree to block any Iranian nuclear activity until 2025 and beyond, address Iran’s ballistic missile program and generate conditions for a political solution to contain Iran in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
“I think we can work together to build this comprehensive deal for the whole region, for our people, because I think it fairly addresses our concerns,” Macron told Congress.