'Americans thought France was a country of moaners and strikes, Macron has changed that'

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'Americans thought France was a country of moaners and strikes, Macron has changed that'

France's outspoken ambassador to the US tells The Local how the image of France has changed on the other side of the Atlantic from being a country they used to bash to a country they now like to toast. He also says the French expats won't flee the US because of Trump.


Gérard Araud, who is often referred to as France's "outspoken" ambassador to the United States, has one thing (perhaps the only thing) in common with Donald Trump - a thirst for Twitter.
Although Trump has 1,000 times more followers than Araud's 40,000, the ambassador has built up a reputation of being quick to tweet, sometimes, too quick.
Like Trump his quick fire fingers have landed him in trouble in the past, notably on the night of Donald Trump's shock victory in the US Presidential race.
A clearly stunned Araud, who had been told by Hillary Clinton's camp earlier on election night that she would definitely win, tweeted: "After Brexit and this election anything is possible. A world is collapsing before our eyes. Vertigo."
The tweet prompted a furious Fox news presenter to declare "How dare he".
His words made headlines worldwide although he later deleted the tweet and insisted his words were not a criticism towards Trump just a sign that the old political world order and the era of neoliberalism was over.
Araud was due to step down in the summer but then new French president Emmanuel Macron asked him to stay on in Washington DC, where he says the image of France has changed for the better.
"It's obvious that for a lot of Americans the election of a 39-year-old new guy was seen in a very positive way," Araud told The Local after meeting with the Anglo-American Press Association in Paris on Friday. 
"People are excited because for the last decade France has been considered as a sort of moaning country that faces strikes and other problems and suddenly there is renewal with Emmanuel Macron," said Araud, who once broke diplomatic protocol by stating if Marine Le Pen was elected to the Elysée it would be a"complete disaster".
But while the Americans might be impressed by Macron the French public recently ranked Vladimir Putin higher than Donald Trump in the popularity stakes.
"I'm a diplomat so I'm not going to enter into this field but I don't think the image of president Trump is worse than in the rest of Europe," said Araud.
One American Macron left a big impression on was Donald Trump.The story goes that Trump was so impressed by his visit to Paris when he attended the Bastille Day parade and was wined and dined at the Eiffel Tower by Macron and his wife Brigitte is that that's all he talks about when he meets diplomats.
(Araud casts his vote in the French presidential election. Presumably for Macron...AFP)
"I need to emphasize the visit of President Trump to France for Bastille Day and the excellent personal relationship between Trump and Macron," said Araud.
"President Trump was impressed by the French military parade. Actually when he was elected he was thinking of a military parade in Washington DC so I think now he is more convinced than ever."
Araud who took up his post in 2014 has fought himself in the past against an unfair or cliched image of France that is often portrayed in the US.
When former US presidential candidate Jeb Bush mocked France and it's "three day working week" Araud was not willing to take the slight lying down .
He called Bush's comments "bombastic nonsense" and took to Twitter to hit back.
"A French work week of three days? No, but a pregnancy paid leave of 16 weeks yes! And proud of it," said Araud who went on to defend France's health and education systems and said he was proud of France's high tax rates.
But Jeb Bush aside Araud says the views of Americans towards the French are very positive.
"I've never experienced that much French bashing. What is striking for me is that a lot of Americans love France and know France. There is a francophile minority of Americans," said Araud.
The ambassador noted how many people in the US who want to raise a toast to France at dinners.
French envoy to US hits back after Bush bashing(Araud meets Barack Obama. AFP)
Since being elected Macron has openly appealed to French expatriates in the US to return home.
During the French president's trip to the United Nations in New York, he made an appearance in front of hundreds of French citizens who have made a new home for themselves in the US.
Standing in front of a huge French tricolore flag, Macron proudly told them France is now “the land of conquest”. 
One French expat The Local spoke to said his compatriots were more likely to chose to move home because Donald Trump was in charge in the US.
“Expats in the US who return home during Macron's term as president won't be motivated by anything else apart from the blond man in the White House,” said New York resident Toni Mis. 
But the ambassador believes the French in the US are not all about to up sticks because of Trump. He himself is happy to stay on.
"In the last 10 years the number of the French living in the US has doubled. It's a very diverse community. I'm sure some of the young French people living in the US are excited by what is happening in France," he said. 
"But I think they will be attracted to come back by what is happening in France but certainly not repulsed by what is happening in the US."
The same might be said for how the French government views wat's happening in the US, at least when it comes to climate change. Donald Trump recently angered France and much of the world by announcing he would pull the US out of the historic Paris climate deal.
Despite Macron's efforts to change Trump's mind the US president has refused to budge. Araud says Trump's stubborness gives the wrong impression of how how Americans in general view the battle against climate change.
"We've been working well on all the issues but it's public that in the area of climate change we have a disagreement," said Araud.
"But the disagreement is with the Washington administration because the rest of the country, the rest of the US, the cities, a lot of states, the big corporations are committed to fighting climate change and personally I'm quite positive and hopeful about the US when it comes to climate change."


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