Trump welcomes France's Macron for first state visit — faces differences on Iran, trade

WASHINGTON, April 23 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes France's Emmanuel Macron to the White House on Monday at the start of a three-day state visit expected to be dominated by U.S.-European differences on the Iran nuclear deal and souring trade relations.

It will be Trump's first hosting of a state visit since he took power in January 2017. The pair will get a sense of their two countries' shared history during an evening meal on Monday night at Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, the first U.S. president and Revolutionary War commander whose alliance with France was critical to victory over the British.

The major work between them is scheduled for Tuesday during White House meetings, before Macron addresses Congress on Wednesday, the anniversary of the day that French General Charles de Gaulle addressed a Joint Session of Congress in 1960.

Trump and the 40-year-old French leader began their improbable friendship a year ago in Belgium with a jaw-clenching handshake. While other European leaders have kept a certain distance from Trump, Macron has worked hard to remain close to the U.S. president and the two leaders speak frequently by phone.

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President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron
U.S. President Donald Trump (L) shakes hands with French President Emmanuel Macron before a working lunch ahead of a NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Dejong/Pool
U.S. President Donald Trump greets French President Emmanuel Macron before a lunch ahead of a NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and France's President Emmanuel Macron shake hands before a working lunch ahead of a NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump jokes with French President Emmanuel Macron about their handshakes in front of NATO leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (2ndR) and Belgium King Philippe (L), at the start of the NATO summit at their new headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A combination photo shows U.S. President Donald Trump (L) trying twice to let go of a handshake with France's President Emmanuel Macron (R) as Macron holds tight, before a working lunch ahead of a NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump (L) meets French President Emmanuel Macron before a working lunch ahead of a NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Dejong/Pool
US President Donald Trump (R) talks with French President Emmanuel Macron as they attend the Summit of the Heads of State and of Government of the G7, the group of most industrialized economies, plus the European Union, on May 26, 2017 in Taormina, Sicily. The leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the US and Italy will be joined by representatives of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well as teams from Ethiopia, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria and Tunisia during the summit from May 26 to 27, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN (Photo credit should read STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump (L) meets French President Emmanuel Macron before a working lunch ahead of a NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Dejong/Pool
US President Donald Trump (L) and US First Lady Melania Trump (C) speak with French President Emmanuel Macron (R) as they arrive for a concert of the La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra during the Summit of the Heads of State and of Government of the G7, the group of most industrialized economies, plus the European Union, on May 26, 2017 at the ancient Greek Theater in Taormina, Sicily. The leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the US and Italy will be joined by representatives of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well as teams from Ethiopia, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria and Tunisia during the summit from May 26 to 27, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / PHILIPPE WOJAZER (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE WOJAZER/AFP/Getty Images)
(L-R) Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Donald Trump attend the Summit of the Heads of State and of Government of the G7, the group of most industrialized economies, plus the European Union, on May 26, 2017 in Taormina, Sicily. The leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the US and Italy will be joined by representatives of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well as teams from Ethiopia, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria and Tunisia during the summit from May 26 to 27, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN (Photo credit should read STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump meets French President Emmanuel Macron in New York, U.S., September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump meets French President Emmanuel Macron in New York, U.S., September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
French President Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump as First Lady Melania Trump looks on after the traditional Bastille Day military parade in Paris, France, July 14, 2017. REUTERS/Yves Herman
French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Donald Trump speak with French army general Bruno Le Ray, military governor of Paris, at the end of the traditional Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, France, July 14, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Donald Trump attend the traditional Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, France, July 14, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 14: U.S President Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron during the traditional Bastille day military parade on the Champs-Elysees on July 14, 2017 in Paris France. Bastille Day, the French National day commemorates this year the 100th anniversary of the entry of the United States of America into World War I (Photo by Antoine Gyori/Corbis via Getty Images)
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Macron is on something of a rescue mission for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which Trump has vowed to scrap unless European allies strengthen it by mid-May.

The deal reached between Iran, the United States and five other world powers put curbs on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Macron said on Fox News Sunday that it would be better to protect the Iran deal instead of get rid of it, saying there is no "Plan B" to take its place.

"Is this agreement perfect and this JCPOA a perfect thing for our relationship with Iran? No. But for nuclear -- what do you have? As a better option? I don't see it," he said.

TRADE TALKS

Macron also wants to persuade Trump to exempt European nations from steel tariffs that are part of the U.S. president's plan to reduce chronic trade deficits with countries around the world, chiefly China.

His visit comes at a time of mounting alarm in Europe over the knock-on effect that U.S. sanctions on Russia will have on their own manufacturing industries.

An official in the French presidency said Paris and other European capitals were coordinating efforts to persuade Trump to ease sanctions on Russia, including measures against Russian aluminum producers.

"We're working on that with our European partners," the source said.

The two leaders are also expected to discuss Syria, less than two weeks after the United States, France and Britain launched airstrikes in Syria in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack that killed dozens in Douma, Syria.

Macron said last week that he believed he had persuaded Trump to keep U.S. troops in Syria, but Trump has been insistent on bringing them home, although he has not publicly provided a definite timetable.

Whether substantive progress will be made on these and other issues was unclear.

"Whether we will actually solve, or come to closure, or a full detailed agreement on some of the issues that we've touched on is difficult to say at this remove," a senior administration official told reporters on Friday. (Reporting By Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Michel Rose and Richard Lough in Paris; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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