France - US Relations
France is one of the oldest US allies, dating to 1778 when the French monarchy recognized the independence of the United States. French military and economic assistance during the American War of Independence (1775-81) was crucial to the American victory. Since then, relations between the two countries have remained active, despite periods that have tested this long friendship.
While serving the French crown in 1524, Giovanni da Verrazzano, originally of Italian descent, explored North America in search of a route to the Pacific Ocean. Later in 1534, Jacques Cartier explored the St. Lawrence River and claimed the area for France. In the early 1600s, French explorer Samuel de Champlain traveled through and mapped the Great Lakes, while Father Jacques Marquette founded a Jesuit mission called Sault Ste. Marie, in present-day Michigan.
The French Revolution began in May 1789 and eventually overthrew the government of Louis XVI. In 1792 Thomas Jefferson stated that the US should “acknowledge any Government to be rightful, which is formed by the will of nation, substantially declared.” This has been US policy ever since. Consequently, formal diplomatic relations with France were not broken upon the constitution of new French governments after 1789 (the majority of which occurred during the nineteenth century). Each time this happened, the resident American diplomatic representative usually submitted new credentials to the appropriate authorities.
In July 7, 1798, following the so-called “XYZ affair,” the U.S. Congress abrogated the treaties of 1778 and a pre-existing consular convention. The French, however, did not accept the abrogation as legally-binding until after the ratification of the 1800 Treaty of Friendship and Commerce. Following the outbreak of the Quasi-War, the U.S. and France signed a Treaty of Friendship and Commerce on September 30, 1800 (also known as the Treaty of Morfontaine), which was revised and then later ratified by both sides on July 31, 1801.
In 1803, the United States acquired the Louisiana Purchase from France. At a cost of $15 million, the new land nearly doubled the size of the country. In 1824, Marquis de Lafayette became the first foreign dignitary to address a joint session of Congress. His portrait currently hangs in the chamber of the House of Representatives.
In 1917, the United States joined the France and the Allied Powers in the Great War, bringing much-needed reinforcements in the fight against the Central Powers. After the Allied victory in 1918, President Woodrow Wilson set forth his Fourteen Point peace plan in a speech before Congress, urging freedom of the seas, arms reduction, and international cooperation.
Germany invaded France on May 15, 1940, and as French resistance collapsed, the French Government left Paris on June 10 to make its way to Bordeaux. The American Ambassador, William C. Bullitt, remained in Paris to oversee the evacuation of American and British civilians, while the American Embassy staff followed the French government. U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull designated Anthony J. Drexel Biddle, Jr., on June 13 as Deputy Ambassador of the U.S. Government near the seat of the French Government, a role that he filled until June 24, when the Department directed him to leave France and resume his duties as Ambassador to the Polish Government in exile. Following the occupation of Bordeaux, the Embassy staff moved with the French government to the vicinity of Clermont-Ferrand, where Bullitt rejoined it on or about June 29, before departing on July 11.
On June 16, 1940, French Prime Minister Paul Reynaud resigned in favor of Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain, who requested terms for an armistice from Germany and oversaw France’s surrender on June 22, 1940. On July 10, 1940, the French Parliament met in Vichy and granted full and extraordinary powers to Marshal Pétain, including the power to write a new Constitution. The American Embassy relocated near the seat of the new Vichy regime in the summer of 1940. William D. Leahy presented his credentials as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the French Government in Vichy on January 8, 1941, a position he held until May 1, 1942.
Vichy France severed diplomatic relations with the United States on November 8, 1942, when Prime Minister Pierre Laval informed the U.S. Chargé in Vichy, S. Pinkney Tuck, of his government’s decision. This French decision followed the Anglo-American invasion of French North Africa.
On June 3, 1943, the French Committee of National Liberation (FCNL) was established in Algiers under the leadership of co-Presidents Charles de Gaulle and Henri Giraud. On August 24, 1943, President Roosevelt instructed Acting-Secretary of State Adolf A. Berle to forward a message to U.S. Minister Robert D. Murphy (Roosevelt’s personal representative in Algiers) that was to be distributed to members of the FCNL two days later. The message announced that the U.S. Government “recognizes the French Committee of National Liberation as administering those territories which acknowledge its authority.” The message, however, did “not constitute recognition of a government of France or of the French Empire by the Government of the United States,” but rather signified “recognition of the French Committee of National Liberation as functioning within specific limitations during the war,” after which “the people of France… will proceed in due course to select their own government and their own officials to administer it.”
On May 16, 1944, the Acting American Representative to the FCNL at Algiers, Selden Chapin, informed Secretary Hull that the FCNL’s Provisional Consultative Assembly had passed a unanimous resolution to the effect that the FCNL would now be referred to as the Provisional Government of the French Republic (PGFR). On October 19, 1944, Secretary Hull informed the American Representative to the FCNL, Jefferson Caffery, that the President had decided to recognize the PGFR as “the de facto authority established in Paris under the leadership of General De Gaulle, at the time of [the] announcement by the French of the creation of a zone of the interior.”
Operation Neptune, widely known as D-Day, was the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France. On June 6, 1944, the Allies launched the largest-scale amphibious attack in history, storming the beaches of Normandy early in the morning. Led by General Dwight Eisenhower with the help of General Charles de Gaulle, the Allies executed the invasion with the ultimate goal of liberating France.
On October 23, 1944, the Department of State issued a press release announcing the recognition of the PGFR by the U.S. Government, and that Caffery would assume the position of U.S. Ambassador to France. On the same day, in Paris, Caffery and representatives from the British, Soviet, and Canadian Governments called on French Foreign Minister, Georges Bidault. They provided him with letters extending diplomatic recognition from their Governments and Bidault reciprocated by acknowledging them as duly-accredited ambassadors to France.
Following the liberation of Paris at the end of the Summer of 1944, the American Embassy in Paris was reopened to the public on December 1, 1944. Jefferson Caffery was appointed Ambassador to France on November 25, 1944, and was in charge pending presentation of his letter of credence, which occurred on December 30, 1944.
In the aftermath of World War II, the United States launched the Marshall Plan, a multilateral plan to economically and politically rebuild the devastated Europe. The Truman Doctrine, a policy implemented by President Harry Truman, formalized the plan. Between 1947 and 1951, France and other war-torn countries received nearly $13 billion in recovery funds. On March 19, 1956, France began allocating plots of land for the establishment permanent military cemeteries and war memorials, including the construction of numerous cemeteries for foreign soldiers. These cemeteries attract many tourists to Normandy each year.
France and the United States pursued parallel policies on most economic, political, and security issues and have a history of close cooperation, along with occasional strains. During the Cold War, tensions arose when France attempted to arbitrate between the United States and the Soviet Union. France also insisted on maintaining control of its nuclear arsenal, removing itself from the military leadership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in order to do so.
Following the events of September 11, 2001, France sent troops to Afghanistan within the context of a NATO coalition. France committed 3,850 men to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). France has spend upwards of €850 million on the war in Afghanistan. In July 2011, France announced the withdrawal of its troops following President Barack Obama’s announcement earlier that month of U.S. troop drawbacks. That same month, French Ambassador to the United States, François Delattre, bestowed the French Cross of Military Valor on six U.S. Special Forces soldiers in recognition of their heroism while fighting alongside French troops.
The French opposition to military intervention in Iraq induced a marked anti-French protest in the United States, leading to a boycott of French products. This phenomenon began in February 2003, peaked in early March 2003 after the French veto at the United Nations Security Council, and continued for several years thereafter. Newt Gingrich portrayed French opposition to the UN resolution on Iraq as part of a larger and long-term French effort to constrain the United States, to rein it in. He saw a direct connection between the vote in the UN in 1991 in which the United States was not reelected to the Human Rights Commission, and which the French failure to support the US was decisive there and events later on.
Although France did not join the second U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, it joined the action in Afghanistan, contributed financially through the EU to Iraq reconstruction in 2003, and offered the Iraqi Interim Government assistance in the form of police training and debt relief. These actions have somewhat assuaged U.S. pique, as has the central role France has been playing in international efforts to combat terrorism. Some central figures in the Chirac administration, most notably, France's first female defense minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, made improved Franco-American relations a priority since the Iraq War. The Sarkozy administration continued seeking improved relations.
In January 2004 French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said "France definitely does not seek systematically to counter the U.S. in the world or to diminish its influence... We simply want to promote our vision of things as we respect that of others. So let us discuss how to make the most of today's globalized world while preserving the earth's diversity, which is an asset to all." Ms. Alliot-Marie said it was time to reinvent the transatlantic partnership. "To renew the transatlantic relationship we have to put behind us the divisions that were expressed in 2003," she continued. "There needs to be a clean slate and a fresh start from two shared ambitions."
In his annual New Year's message to the Diplomatic Corps delivered on 18 January 2008, President Sarkozy evoked France's new-found closeness to the US Sarkozy underlined that France was a "voluntary partner" of the US, and an "independent ally and friend," while clearly implying that France, for the sake of its own effectiveness and credibility, was right to abandon its pretensions to representing an alternative to US leadership. Sarkozy did not unveil any new or unexpected initiatives, but he did attempt to link France's foreign policy initiatives to pressing international problems without referring to "France's glory" or "France's history and civilization".
France was the first country to conduct military strikes against Col. Muammar Qaddafi’s forces, as well as the first country to recognize the National Transitional Council as the legitimate Libyan government. In March 2011, the United States, France, and Great Britain coordinated attacks within the framework of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. France and the United States both support transition to democracy in Libya and seek to help restore the country.
During the Syrian uprising of 2011, France and the United States both condemned the Syrian regime’s use of violence against protesters. The international community has imposed new sanctions on Syria, and France is pushing for a United Nations resolution that will aid the Syrian people. France and the United States both support the Arab League and the Syrian National Coalition. The two nations continue to work together to promote self-determination, freedom, and peace in the Middle East and around the world.
The United States and France are among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (P5). Today, relations between the United States and France are active and friendly. France and the United States share common values and have parallel policies on most political, economic, and security issues. Differences are discussed frankly and have not generally been allowed to impair the pattern of close cooperation that characterizes relations between the two countries.
The US and France work closely on many issues, most notably in combating terrorism, efforts to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and on regional problems, including in Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans, and Central Asia. As one of the P5+1 powers and as a leader of the European Union, France is working to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, France fully supports US engagement in the peace process. France is one of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) top five troop contributors. The French support NATO modernization efforts and are leading contributors to the NATO Response Force.
France is a member of the European Union and is the United States’ third-largest trading partner in Europe (after Germany and the U.K.). Trade and investment between the United States and France are strong. On average, over $1 billion in commercial transactions, including sales of US and French foreign affiliates, take place every day. US exports to France include industrial chemicals, aircraft and engines, electronic components, telecommunications, computer software, computers and peripherals, analytical and scientific instrumentation, medical instruments and supplies, and broadcasting equipment. The United States is the top destination for French investment and the United States is the largest foreign investor in France. The United States and France have a bilateral convention on investment and a bilateral tax treaty addressing, among other things, double taxation and tax evasion.
France and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, G-20, G-8, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. France also is an observer to the Organization of American States.
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