“It’s important for us to be here,” Harris told Macron as they embraced. “We have a long and shared history — and future.”
The moment was just one of several images that defined Harris’ tightly choreographed five-day trip to the French capital and told the story that Harris — and President Joe Biden, who dispatched her there — intended to tell: that of a French-American relationship back on track.
“I will tell you that it was a very productive and a good trip,” Harris said to reporters on Saturday, “and we have a lot of follow-up stuff. … Our work will continue, and we do it with a sense of optimism but a sense of strong conviction that the partnership between the United States and France remains and will continue to be very strong.”
Unlike in June — which saw Harris’ stumbles in an interview overshadow an otherwise successful trip — Harris managed to avoid controversy and steer clear of diplomatic and political minefields. She left France on Saturday and is set to arrive in Washington later in the day.
“I will tell you that was not the purpose of this trip, and we didn’t discuss it,” Harris said Friday, when speaking to reporters in Paris. The vice president has been asked if she believed she had done the job to repair the relationship, after the scuttled deal.
“What we did discuss is the issues that are challenging us and the issues that are the basis for this relationship and the strength and the endurance of this relationship,” she added.
After largely burying the hatchet with Biden ahead of the G20 in Rome last month, Macron seemed largely content to revel in the gesture of the vice president’s presence in Paris and the gesture of a lengthy trip as the next step in the process.
“I want to thank you for your presence. You’re more than welcome not just in this palace with myself and my ministers, but I can tell you that French people are extremely proud to have you here today,” Macron said as he opened a meeting with Harris at the Elysée, adding in French that he was “extremely grateful” for her visit.
Harris’ visit to the Elysée gave her and Macron an opportunity to spend time one-on-one, without aides present, before sitting down for a bilateral meeting that went over time, prompting French protocol officials to enter the room three times in an effort to wrap up the meeting.
Harris and Macron laughed about those attempts the next morning as they met for the Armistice Day Ceremony.
Beyond their time together, Harris’ solo visits were also powerful diplomatic messaging moments.
Harris’ multi-hour attendance and remarks at the Paris Peace Forum helped lend credibility to a Macron initiative. Her visit to the French biomedical research Pasteur Institute highlighted longstanding French-American cooperation on scientific research — as well as Harris’ own personal connection to that cooperation in the form of her mother’s research at the institute in the 80s. And a final visit to one of the sites of the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris on the sixth anniversary underscored shared values and a commitment to fighting terrorism.
But it was Harris’ visit to the Suresnes American Cemetery, where Americans who fought and died in France during World Wars I and II are buried, that served as perhaps the most powerful reminder of the shared sacrifice between the two countries and a deeply rooted bond.
“If there is any question about the why or the what, in terms of our relationship as the United States with France, that is one visual and one concrete example of the endurance and the mutual commitment and interdependence between the United States and France,” Harris said on Friday, reflecting on her visit to the cemetery.