Bloomberg’s international politics chief tweeted that “Macron is literally crushing Trump’s hand in the battle of the Nato handshakes. There’s a new kid in town.” Bloomberg said in a report that he had “out Trumped Trump” and demonstrated that “there is a new leader on the world stage”.
Meanwhile, Philip Rucker of the Washington Post, who was there, said: “They shook hands for an extended period of time. Each president gripped the other’s hand with considerable intensity, their knuckles turning white and their jaws clenching and faces tightening.”
The Guardian said: “For a brief moment it seemed neither man wanted to give up, which would have made everything even more awkward, but in the end Trump relented and loosened his fingers”.
As this video shows, when they met later in the day at the new Nato headquarters in Brussels Mr Trump’s handshake was even more frantic, with Mr Macron finally seeming to put his other hand on the US president’s wrist to push his hand away:
Whoever ‘won the handshakes’ – an issue that now crops up regularly when Mr Trump meets world leaders – the two men reportedly got on reasonably well, with a White House spokesman saying they had “good chemistry”, while Mr Macron called the meeting “very good,” “cordial” and “frank”.
Reportedly an Elysée official even said Mr Trump told Mr Macron he was his favourite candidate for the French election, saying: “You were my guy”. Mr Trump told reporters in Brussels the French president had run “an incredible campaign and had a tremendous victory”.
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It had been widely assumed that Mr Trump supported Marine Le Pen, after he said before the election that she was “strongest on borders and strongest on what’s been going on in France”, adding that the terrorist killing of a police officer in Paris would “probably help” her candidacy.
On actual issues, however, the men did not always see eye to eye, with Mr Macron urging Mr Trump not to abandon the Paris agreement on climate change, while the US president said he had not made up his mind and was under a lot of pressure at home. Mr Macron reportedly stressed the agreement’s importance to the international community and the economic advantages to be had from moving to greener energies.
During almost two-hours of discussion in English, they also spoke about foreign policy over Iran and the war in Syria and discussed Trump’s wish for other states to contribute more to Nato’s budget, though he said he was not especially “aiming at” France in that respect.
They also spoke about plans for Nato to formally join the coalition against Islamic State, with Mr Macron said to have favoured Nato limiting its involvement to non-operational tasks in Iraq.
It is said that an official visit by Mr Trump to France may be planned later this year, possibly linked to a commemoration such as the centenary in November of the first American battalion joining the First World War.