What will President Donald Trump mean for France?

The presidency of Donald Trump will likely cause some knock on effects for France. Here are a few to consider.

What will President Donald Trump mean for France?
The statue of liberty in Paris. Photo: AFP

Will it be tougher for French nationals to get visas for the US?

In July Trump suggested the United States could suspend immigration from what he called countries “compromised by terrorism” (including France) until vetting mechanisms were in place.

“We have problems in Germany, and we have problems in France” – both countries rocked by fatal attacks claimed by the Isis group.

When asked specifically if the proposal would limit immigration from France, he said: “They have been compromised by terrorism.”

“And you know why? It's their own fault. Because they allowed people to come into their territory.”

Marine Le Pen must now be taken seriously

Long seen as an unwanted distraction by the mainstream French political parties, Marine Le Pen is developing into a force that needs to be reckoned with. Just as Brexit did, Trump's victory will continue to spur Le Pen on and convince her she can pull off her own stunning victory in May’s presidential election.

But can Le Pen really complete a hat trick of shock vote victories?

“It's now a hypothesis that everyone should take seriously,” French political commentator Philippe Marliere told The Local shortly after Trump's shock election win.

“That doesn't mean it will happen, but it's now something we have to consider is a possibility.

“And I would never have said that a few years ago. But Trump, with his populist, xenophobic and anti-immigrant discourse has managed to take over the most powerful democracy in the world. So why can't it happen in France?”

Fraught diplomacy between Trump and Paris

The US ambassador to France Jane Hartley, who left France on Thursday, had this to say in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s victory.

“I am confident, in particular concerning France, that it will not affect our relations. France is our most powerful ally and an incredible partner in our fight against terrorism…

“I hope the strong relations we have built will not change.”

But things are likely to be a little more fraught in reality.

In recent months Trump has hardly been sympathetic to France and France has been far from kind towards Trump.

When Trump said “France is no longer France, I wouldn’t go there” after the jihadist attack on a priest in the summer, it prompted a fierce reaction from this side of the Channel.

President François Hollande said Trump “makes him want to retch”.

When Hollande eventually emerged to “congratulate” Trump on his victory he hardly offered a ringing endorsement. The world is now facing a “period of uncertainty” said Hollande, in the understatement of the day.

So after saying he wouldn’t want to go to France, presumably Donald Trump might have to entertain the idea now he is head of state. But he shouldn’t expect a warm welcome. Unless perhaps Marine Le Pen is in power after this year's elections in France.

The fight against terror

America under Barack Obama has been a key ally of France in the fight against Isis, the Middle East terror group behind the terror attacks in Paris and Nice that left over 200 dead.

French president François Hollande persuaded Obama to step up air attacks on Isis in Iraq and Syria in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.

Trump has suggested he is not willing to get involved in wars on foreign lands, especially the Middle East, but he has however said he wants to knock out Isis. But for Trump, this would likely mean teaming up with Russia, which France and the US have avoided up to now.

That would probably mean helping to keep Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in power, which is not something France wants, but will likely tolerate if it means Isis are crippled.

“We cannot let this evil continue. Nor can we let the hateful ideology of radical Islam — its oppression of women, gays, children and nonbelievers — be allowed to reside or spread within our own countries. We will defeat radical Islamic terrorism.

Trump’s speech on Isis in August sounds like something François Hollande could have said in recent months.

Paris climate deal

Donald Trump’s desire to rip up the Paris climate deal affects more countries than just France.

But it was Hollande’s government who pushed hard for a deal to be done in Paris last year and Hollande, even though it seems he has little time left in the charge of France, will want to do everything to prevent Trump throwing a spanner in the works of the historic agreement.

Ecology Minister Ségolène Royal has already warned Trump that he cannot denounce the climate deal that has been signed by 103 countries, including the United States.

This article has been updated since it was first published in November 2016. 

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