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Trump Visits Paris For Parade And Talks


President Trump has told the story of a friend he calls Jim, a man who used to visit Paris year after year but doesn't anymore because Paris is no longer Paris, the man says - changed by migration and Islamist radicals. The Associated Press reports it is unclear if the president's friend Jim actually exists. But now, the president himself is visiting Paris to meet with President Emmanuel Macron and to attend a parade on France's national holiday, Bastille Day.

Let's talk about this with Thierry Arnaud, who's the senior political correspondent for BFMTV, a French network. Welcome to the program, sir.

THIERRY ARNAUD: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: So we know how the president feels about Paris. How do the French feel about Trump?

ARNAUD: Well, it's very clear that he is deeply unpopular in France. He has over 80 percent negative opinions, according to a poll published in early May, versus 90 percent - that's 9-0 - favorables for President Obama. But the second thing you have to keep in mind is that there is an overwhelming majority of the French people who make the difference between their intense dislike of President Trump and their deep gratitude for the sacrifices of American soldiers during both world wars. And as you know, what we'll be celebrating tomorrow is the hundredth anniversary of the United States and its soldiers entering World War I.

INSKEEP: And you note that shared history, which I appreciate. I wonder if there's something else that is shared here because even though Macron and Trump are so different politically and personally, they both positioned themselves as outsiders in their elections. It seems that Americans - a lot of them - voted for a big change. And it seems that a lot of French people voted for big change. Is there actually something in common between these two men?

ARNAUD: Oh, you're absolutely right. I would agree with that completely, even though they express those feelings very differently, and they behave very differently as presidents. It's quite clear that they won the election, in both cases, fighting the political establishment and making a point of doing so. Clearly, it's not quite the same in the sense that, even though he fought the Republican establishment, President Trump was the Republican candidate in the end, whereas Emmanuel Macron created his own party from scratch about a year and a half ago and basically destroyed the political family he came from, which was the Socialist Party. But other than that, Macron often says that he feels like a (speaking French) in French, in other words, an outsider, a renegade, so to speak. And that would be very familiar, I would think, to President Trump as well.

INSKEEP: But with that said, they are different on so many issues, starting with climate change. The Paris Agreement, which, of course, France supports and virtually every nation on Earth supports but that President Trump wants to get out of. They seem to disagree on NATO funding. Is this correct that France is among the countries that is not meeting its 2 percent share of GDP for NATO funding, which is something that President Trump has been very vocal about?

ARNAUD: Yes, it's - we're not there yet. But I think France is very close to the 2 percent GDP targets. It's about 1.8 right now. And France carries a lot of weight of European defense as well. And our French military forces are deployed in a number of key areas. They are part of the coalition alongside the United States in Syria and Iraq, for example. They get support from the United States fighting in Sahel against terrorists as well. So I don't think it - I don't expect that to be a major point of contention with France specifically.

INSKEEP: Is there one thing you could imagine these two presidents working together on in a constructive way?

ARNAUD: I think Syria could be an example. You have seen them these past few weeks drawing the exact same red line, saying that if Bashar al-Assad uses chemical weapon, they will strike. And I think that there is some hope that he can work alongside the United States and Russia to get that peace agreement to turn into something more general.

And I think what you have to keep in mind is the one major change in French foreign policy since Emmanuel Macron has been elected is Syria. Up until then, the official line was that, first, Bashar al-Assad has to go. And second only, we can start talking about establishing a peace process. President Macron is now saying peace talks can start right now, even with Bashar al-Assad still sitting in the president's chair. And that's not that different from what President Trump is saying as well.

INSKEEP: Thierry Arnaud of BFMTV in France, thank you.

ARNAUD: My pleasure.

INSKEEP: He joined us by Skype. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.