President Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron engage in white knuckle handshake upon first meeting

BRUSSELS, May 25 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron barely know each other but they seemed to have a hard time letting go when they first met on Thursday.

Each man gripped each other's right hand so firmly that their knuckles turned white and their jaws seemed to clench.

Images from the photo session at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Brussels showed Trump finally giving up, his fingers loosened while Macron is still holding on tightly.

RELATED: A look at Trump handshakes

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Trump handshakes

Barack Obama, Former President of the United States

Wood says that the Nov. 10 handshake between Trump and Obama conveyed tension. She says that both parties seemed to adopt defensive postures while shaking hands.

"This shows deep lack of trust for each other," she said in an email. "As they shake hands, Trump pulls Obama in toward him, to show he is going to be the one in charge. If you look at their facial expressions as they shake hands, you will see both men have their lips tightly pressed together. And their chins are pulled up and wrinkled with distaste."

Photo credit: Getty

Neil Gorsuch, US Supreme Court nominee

On Jan. 31, Trump nominated Gorsuch to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. After the judge's speech, the two shared a rather vigorous handshake.

Wood says that Gorsuch keeps his distance throughout the handshake. She adds that he seems to be in disbelief, "as his head position seems to indicate he can't believe Trump is doing this."

She says that Trump's tendency to pat people's hands comes across as an attempt to establish "alpha status."

Photo credit: Reuters 

Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan

When Trump and Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe sat down in the Oval Office on Feb. 10, things got kind of weird. Their handshake lasted nearly 20 seconds, and prompted Abe to look away with a surprised or bemused expression.

Wood says that Trump initially put himself in a subordinate and open position by offering his hand to Abe with his palm up, only to turn the tables and pull the prime minister in closer.

"Trump likes to break expectations, and you can see that he did by Abe's response," she said in an email.

Photo credit: Getty

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Wood says that Trudeau made an effort to look powerful when he encountered Trump during their Feb. 14 meting.

"Notice how he takes his non-shaking hand and grasps the outside of Trump's left shoulder," she said in an email. "He gives the faint appearance of power, but a real power move would have been to place his non-shaking palm on the shoulder of Trump and press down, or at least go higher on the arm. In this move his hand is too low and he gives more of a squeeze that shows more affection than power."

Photo credit: Getty

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel

In this Feb. 15 interaction, Wood says that Netanyahu managed to maneuver out of Trump's lingering, jerking handshake. However, he couldn't avoid Trump's next move.

"Trump gets him, by moving towards him, invading his space and giving him a firm pat, pat, pat, on his upper back," Wood said in an email.

She says the move indicated that Trump was attempting to establish dominance over the Israeli Prime Minister.

Photo credit: Getty

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany

Trump and Merkel shook hands both when she initially arrived at the White House on March 17 and later during their joint press conference.

However, the more talked-about interaction came about in the Oval Office, when Trump appeared to ignore Merkel when she asked if he wanted to shake hands.

"You see her do a forward movement," Wood said in an email. "Then, when he doesn't move to shake hands, she makes a little shoulder roll of discomfort, while he continues to face away and stay closed, when it is clearly time to face towards her and shake hands. He continues to face towards the cameras, his shoulders slumped slightly forward, and keeps his whole head turned down and away from her."

Wood says that the exchange indicated "disrespectful disregard" on the part of Trump.

Photo credit: Getty


Macron's determination may be a lesson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who on a recent visit to the Oval Office tried and failed to get Trump to shake her hand.

Both Trump and Macron were in Brussels to attend a NATO summit.

After their meeting, they had veal filet and Belgian chocolate mousse for lunch. (Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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