Emmanuel Macron mocks Trump slogan on live TV

France unanimous in condemnation of US president’s ‘shamefully wrong error’

Never before has a French president gone on live television, in English, to denounce a decision by his US counterpart.

President Emmanuel Macron mocked Donald Trump's slogan that he wants to "make America great again". America is great, Macron said. "The world believes in you. I know that you are a great nation." Paraphrasing Trump, he said it was time for the US, French and other allies to "make our planet great again".

Macron portrayed climate change as a security threat. “If we do nothing, our children will know a world of migrations, of wars, of shortage. A dangerous world,” he said.

"There is no plan B, because there is no planet B," Macron continued. He repeated the theme of the joint declaration he issued with German chancellor Angela Merkel and the Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni: "I say it forcefully: we will not, in any case, renegotiate a less ambitious agreement. Tonight, the US has turned its back on the world. But France will not turn its back on Americans."


Macron cheekily tried to incite a brain drain, saying he would welcome to France US entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers who want “to work on concrete solutions for the climate”.

Trump's announcement was a letdown for Macron, who had one week earlier pleaded with the US president to reconsider, when they met in Brussels and at the G7 meeting in Sicily. Before making his televised statement, Macron telephoned Trump and told him that "France and the US will continue to work together, but not on the climate."

Bond with Merkel

Macron also talked to Merkel. "In the coming days, we will take strong initiatives" to strengthen the Paris agreement, he said. He will discuss the accord in Paris on Saturday with the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi.

Except for the extreme right-wing Front National, which tempered its criticism with the recognition that Trump had fulfilled a campaign promise, condemnation in France was unanimous. "The Mad Decision of the US," declared Le Parisien newspaper's front page. Liberation published a two-word front-page headline: "Goodbye America", with a graphic like dripping petrol.

"Trump defies the planet," said Le Figaro, while Le Monde took its banner headline from Macron's speech: "Trump turns his back on the planet."

The US was pulling out, giving up on "leadership," said Le Monde's front-page editorial. "It will no longer be an example nor a guide." The US is "shrinking, turning inward and accusing others of wishing it ill", said France's newspaper of record, comparing Trump to Charles Lindbergh, the aviator who ardently opposed US participation in the second World War.

Le Monde condemned "this infantile regression" and said that, unlike the 20th century, the 21st will not be an "American century".

Nicolas Hulot, the environment minister shown in a poll this week to be the most popular politician in France, said Trump had taken "a tragic, pathetic decision against history". He "doubt[ed] the inhabitants of New Orleans are keen on President Trump's announcement" and said the world has been "slapped in the face". Nonetheless, Hulot insisted, "The Paris accord is not dead."

‘Fanatical selfishness’

Francois Baroin, who is leading the legislative campaign for the conservative Les Républicains, called Trump's decision "irresponsible" and "lamentable". It showed the "fanatical selfishness of this administration and this president", Baroin continued. "The planet doesn't belong to him. It doesn't belong to the Texas oilmen who vote Republican."

Laurent Fabius, the former foreign minister who presided over the COP21 conference that concluded the Paris agreement, denounced Trump's decision as "shamefully wrong and a major error . . . It is a pack of lies, and the only reaction is global mobilisation."

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe is an Irish Times contributor