On May 31, as the Trump administration was preparing to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the European Union, and France’s finance minister was promising that the EU would respond in kind, the Coalition of American Business Skills held a discussion co-organized by Cultural Vistas and the Mason Enterprise Center at George Mason University on “American Business Skills and the New French Economy” with a panel including former members of both U.S. and French administrations.
Jennifer Clinton, CEO of Cultural Vistas, noted the timeliness of the event—which is part of an ongoing series of roundtables put on by the Coalition highlighting the economic value and cultural benefits of exposing top talent from around the world to the American workplace through immersive internships and training programs.
The discussion, which was moderated by Kevin Cirilli, Chief Washington Correspondent for Bloomberg Television, also featured experts Laura Haim, former spokesperson for Emmanuel Macron, Bruce Andrews, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce, and Bricio Segovia, France 24 White House correspondent. Their insider perspectives on trade tariffs and other contemporary events affecting the U.S.-French relationship were live-streamed and can be viewed in their entirety here.
While discussing the relationship between French President Emmanuel Macron and President Donald Trump and its effects on bilateral relations, the panel noted how the trade stand-off between the two leaders may have been partially fueled by the fact that, despite their ideological differences, Trump and Macron share personality traits which have guided their success and make them both reluctant to stand down.
“I don’t think you can say that there are a lot of similarities between Donald Trump and Macron, but there are a lot of similarities of what people all over the world want now in political elections,” said Haim. “When you appeal to the people with those strong sentences and those strong symbols, you have a good chance to win, in the world we live in, a presidential election.”
But despite these similarities in their personalities, the two leaders have diametrically opposing views on globalization and international trade.
“President Trump has made the bilateral trade deficits…his real priority and the metric by which he judges ‘is a relationship fair?’ between the United States and another country,” said Andrews. “I actually give President Macron a great deal of credit because he [has] stepped forward in a completely unrestrained way and said ‘I am going to defend this global system.’”
A French President assuming the lead in defending the global system in the face of a U.S. President’s opposition to global collaboration goes against the historical precedent set by previous U.S. administrations—which have more frequently relied on openness and the free exchange of ideas for continued prosperity.
“We have always thrived because we allowed the smartest and those willing to work hard [to] come to our country,” said Andrews.
But even amidst the discussion of trade tariffs and a decline in global collaboration, the panel highlighted one notable example of exchange across borders.
Haim said that Trump and Macron shared a phone call the day after Macron’s election. “They spoke about the importance of the relation between France and the United States and also the fight against terrorism. And then after 20 minutes…President Trump said, ‘Listen, I’m going to give you my cell phone number, so like that we can speak directly to each other.’”
Beyond two men talking on their cell phones, the Coalition of American Business Skills hopes more roundtables similar to the discussion of the New French Economy will continue to promote further dialogue about the importance of collaboration across borders and American businesses’ continued engagement around the globe.