PARIS—Few in France will miss Donald Trump. According to a survey released by the Pew Research Center in January, only 20 percent of the French population have confidence in the U.S. president, compared to 32 percent in the U.K. and 13 percent in Germany. And French President Emmanuel Macron’s high-profile efforts to cultivate his American counterpart on a range of policy issues resulted in some memorable encounters, but also, more often than not, in bitter disappointment.
It may come as a surprise, then, that the French government’s enthusiasm regarding the prospects of working with the incoming Democratic administration of President-elect Joe Biden is decidedly measured.
First, the French have not forgotten that their relations with the U.S. under the administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were far from a bed of roses. They recall Clinton’s hesitation to intervene in the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s and Obama’s refusal to get more involved in the conflict in Syria, as well as his initial lukewarm support for France’s military intervention in Mali in 2013. Nor has anyone in Paris forgotten the two sides’ divergence in approach during the negotiation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. And they keep in mind that some of the thorniest bilateral commercial and financial disputes have occurred under Democratic administrations.