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United States & World

VP Harris met with Macron as part of the ongoing effort to mend alliance with France

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Vice President Harris was on a diplomatic mission today. She's in Paris and met with French President Emmanuel Macron. It's part of a charm offensive from the Biden administration since that big dust-up between the two allies in September. NPR White House correspondent Asma Khalid is traveling with Harris. She joins us now.

And, Asma, first talk about where you were. What kind of reception did the vice president get?

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Well, we went to the Elysee Palace with her this evening here in France, in Paris. And it was a formal, ceremonial thing. It was, you know, not particularly, I will say, large. The vice president was just there herself. She was not accompanied by her husband. And the French president, Emmanuel Macron, came out of the palace to greet Harris. A question was shouted at her from the press about whether or not she needs to make amends. She didn't answer, instead said that she's very happy to be here in Paris.

The issue, though, of making amends is important. It goes back to September, when the United States and the U.K. made a deal with Australia for nuclear submarine technology. The French saw this as undercutting them. They had been trying to pursue their own contract with Australia. And they felt like this was a huge betrayal from one of their oldest allies. And so less than two weeks ago, President Biden met with Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the G20. And he all but apologized and acknowledged the way that the U.S. handled this all was, quote, "clumsy." And here's some of what we heard from the vice president.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VICE PRES KAMALA HARRIS: I will say that building on the great conversation that you and President Biden had, I look forward to the next few days where we'll continue to work together and renew the focus that we've always had on our partnership and the benefit to the people of France and the people of the United States and the people of the world.

CORNISH: Walk us how - what she was doing to kind of demonstrate that partnership.

KHALID: Well, the vice president and Macron agreed that the United States and France would cooperate more deeply, specifically on two big things - space and cybersecurity. The United States has agreed to sign on to the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace. This was crafted in 2018 during the Trump administration. And the last president was, you know, not vigorously pursuing a lot of cooperation with allies at that point. So by agreeing to do this, it is, I would say, the United States showing that they are giving the French something that they want, something that is important to French President Emmanuel Macron. And the Biden administration gets that. Tomorrow, the vice president speaks at the Paris Peace Forum. This was an event launched in 2018 by Macron to defend multilateralism, again when President Trump was in office. And by having the vice president here, speaking at this signature event for Macron, it does signify, I think, the importance of what the United States sees as priorities for France at this point.

CORNISH: It seems like this is a kind of high-stakes visit for her. Why is it significant?

KHALID: You know, if you think back to when Joe Biden was Barack Obama's vice president, he brought a lot of the foreign policy experience to that administration. And the sense is that Vice President Kamala Harris at this point doesn't necessarily have that equivalent level of experience. And if she is to run for president in the future, there is a sense that she needs to build some of that, gain some of that diplomatic experience herself. And certainly, we've seen other vice-presidential candidates run on that experience later themselves as well.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Asma Khalid in Paris. Thanks so much.

KHALID: My pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF EMANCIPATOR'S "MERLION") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.