A call about trade and migration between US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron soured last week after Macron candidly criticized Trump’s policies, two sources familiar with the call told CNN.
“Just bad. It was terrible,” one source told CNN. “Macron thought he would be able to speak his mind, based on the relationship. But Trump can’t handle being criticized like that.”
A short White House readout of the call with Macron said the conversation was focused on trade and immigration.
“Both leaders discussed the migration problem in Libya, and timelines to solve it. President Trump underscored the need to rebalance trade with Europe,” the readout states.
Trump held a similar call with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday. It’s not her style to be combative, but one source said May was expected to be direct in her criticisms and that Trump could expect a tough conversation.
According to a Downing Street spokesperson, the two discussed the Trump administration’s tariffs on American allies, including Mexico, Canada, and the European Union, as well as other matters.
“The Prime Minister raised the US decision to apply tariffs to EU steel and aluminum imports, which she said was unjustified and deeply disappointing,” the statement said. “The Prime Minister said the US, UK and EU are close national security allies and we recognise the importance of the values of open and fair trade across the world. The Prime Minister also underlined the need to safeguard jobs that would potentially be affected by the decision.”
In a readout of the call, the White House said Trump “further underscored the need to rebalance trade with Europe.”
The call with Macron came the same day the United States announced a unilateral decision to slap steel and aluminum tariffs on American allies, including Mexico, Canada, and the European Union.
In a statement issued by the Elysee Palace ahead of the call, Macron said he “regrets the US decision to confirm tariffs in steel and aluminum.”
“This decision is not only illegal, it is a mistake on many points. It is a mistake because it responds to a worldwide unbalance that exists in the worst ways through fragmentations and economic nationalism,” the statement continued, with Macron adding that “if these kind of things impacted our relations, it would have been the case since day one because he has decided to leave the Paris (climate) agreement.”
“I prefer to say things directly and not through the press; and I will tell him what I told you, which are my convictions that he knows already,” he said in the statement.
Thursday’s strained call is particularly notable because Macron is arguably the European leader to whom Trump is closest. In an interview with the BBC in January, Macron said he had a “very direct relationship” with his US counterpart.
“I’m always extremely direct and frank. He is. Sometimes I manage to convince him, and sometimes I fail,” Macron said at the time.