Call it the “Macron effect.” France has knocked the US of the top spot in the global ‘soft power’ rankings.
The Soft Power 30 Index from PR firm Portland Communications looks at how nations are able to influence other countries through persuasion and appeal rather than military or economic force.
The US topped the charts in 2016, but now under Donald Trump, the country has slipped to third place, while the UK has stayed at #2 for the second year running.
France’s new soft-power crown (it jumped four places from #5 last year) is thanks in part to its new young president Macron, whom global leaders have praised for his open, internationalist approach.
Macron joins a list of standing favorites in the world of international diplomacy: Canada’s Justin Trudeau, German chancellor Angela Merkel, a stalwart of EU politics, and the leadership of the UK, which the report gives high marks despite Brexit, because of its professional civil service and international brands like the Premier League.
The report points to the “global frenzy” around Macron’s recent electoral victory, his “savvy online presence,” and his popularity at home and abroad. See, for example, the viral videos of US President Donald Trump’s state visit to France last week, when Macron beamed at a marching band’s rendition of Daft Punk. After the visit, Macron reportedly mused that he would succeed in softening Trump’s stance on climate change.
France’s joie de vivre—for instance its great food and wine—also tipped the scales in its favor, by making visitors feel more welcome.
According to the report France still lags behind powerhouses like Germany on certain aspects of soft power like “business acumen.” Macron’s pro-business reforms should help—assuming his soft power skills can get the rest of the country on board.