French president Emmanuel Macron may have buddied up with America’s Donald Trump for Bastille Day in July (paywall). But at the UN general assembly today, Macron took advantage of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s absence to stake out his position as the anti-Trump and his natural replacement as leader of the liberal world.
Where Trump mentioned sovereignty 21 times, Macron leaned on top liberal talking points like multilateralism, climate change, and free speech. On several crucial issues the two diverged entirely. Here’s a rundown.
Macron: “The future of the world is that of our planet, which is on course to take vengeance on the foolishness of men. The planet will not negotiate with us.” “France will allocate €5 billion for climate action from now to 2020.” The Paris accord “will not be renegotiated.”
Trump: Not a word on climate.
Macron: “The protection of refugees is a moral and political duty in which France has decided to play its role: In following the high commissioner [on refugees] wherever it is necessary. By opening legal resettlement channels for those closest to conflict zones, to Libya, Jordan, Turkey, and also to Niger and Chad. By defending the right the right to asylum and the absolute respect for the Geneva Conventions.”
Trump: “For the cost of resettling one refugee in the United States, we can assist more than 10 in their home region. Out of the goodness of our hearts, we offer financial assistance to hosting countries in the region, and we support recent agreements of the G20 nations that will seek to host refugees as close to their home countries as possible.”
Macron: “It’s the UN’s job to protect the freedom of those who think, reflect, speak out, and particularly the freedom of the press. That’s why I’m calling for a special representative of the secretary general for the protection of journalists in the world.”
Macron: “Denouncing it would be a grave error, not respecting it would be irresponsible—because it is a good agreement that is essential to keeping peace at an hour where the risk of a hellish spiral can’t be discounted.”
Trump: “The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it—believe me.”
Macron: “Our responsibility, with all our partners including China, is to bring it back through pressure to the negotiating table for a political settlement…France will reject any escalation and will not close any port of dialogue if conditions are met so that dialogue is useful for peace.”
Trump: “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man [his nickname for North Korean leader Kim Jon-un] is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary. That’s what the United Nations is all about; that’s what the United Nations is for. Let’s see how they do.”
Macron: “Jihadist terrorism has hit every continent, our fellow citizens from every religion…This fight against terrorism is a military one. It is also educational, cultural, and moral.” Macron also talked of the importance of combating terrorists’ use of the internet to organize.
Trump: “We must deny the terrorists safe haven, transit, funding, and any form of support for their vile and sinister ideology. We must drive them out of our nations…The United States and our allies are working together throughout the Middle East to crush the loser terrorists and stop the reemergence of safe havens they use to launch attacks on all of our people.”
In a press conference after his speech, Macron doubled down on many of these differences. He noted that he and Trump had disagreed on climate change in a private meeting, added that he was against a military option in North Korea, and said that if the US had differences on the Iran deal, they needed “to work together” to hammer out a solution.
Devjyot Ghoshal contributed to this report.