Why is France fascinated by the American elections?


                Malgré les récents attentats terroristes et la pandémie de Covid-19, les médias français font la une des élections américaines.  L'Amérique a un poids économique énorme, c'est le premier partenaire commercial extérieur de la France, mais la France voit aussi certains de ses propres problèmes sociaux se refléter dans la société américaine.

                                    <p>«Quand l'Amérique éternue, le monde se refroidit!»  dit l'adage qui, d'ailleurs, a commencé sa vie comme «Quand Paris éternue, l'Europe se refroidit», à l'époque où Napoléon était une force avec laquelle il fallait compter.

The United States may be increasingly “challenged” by China, but few can doubt its dominance in the global economy.

What will happen on November 3, some 6,000 km from Paris, will have repercussions here in France.

And the French media benefit from it.

The electoral special on French public television on France 2 is revealingly titled: “The election that will change the world”.

The analysis of the race between the outgoing Donald Trump and his rival Joe Biden made the headlines of the main national media on Tuesday: “The shock of the two Americas” (Le Figaro), “The end of a nightmare” (Liberation) , “A turning point for the United States” (Le Monde).

Data from the French Audiovisual Institute (INA) shows that the French media offer much more coverage of the US elections than any other election in Europe. In 2008, with the arrival of newcomers John McCain and Barack Obama, the six major evening news broadcasts in France featured seven stories each day. Even in 2012, when interest was low, the INA recorded 476 reports on the US election.

Frustration of not being able to vote

“The influence is proportional to the economic, political and military power of the country,” American specialist Nicole Bacharan told the INA press review.

As the world’s greatest power, head of NATO and the EU’s main trading partner, the US has a direct impact on Europe, Bacharan explained, adding that there was a form of “frustration. Frenchwoman ”not to be able to vote in such a crucial foreign election.

The wide French media coverage offers compensation, albeit virtual.

“The French often have the impression of knowing the United States, it is in their [collective] imagination, ”Bacharan said. “And Europeans are wondering today: what impact will America in crisis have on us and will these crises make Europe more vulnerable and isolated on the international stage?”

Biden ou Trump?

It is still too early to know exactly how a re-election of Trump or a victory of Biden will affect France but for Jean-Marc Huissoud, geopolitics specialist at the Grenoble management school, Biden would better serve France’s diplomatic interests in the less.

“Biden would stabilize the American administration, make it less joyous than that of Donald Trump,” he told RFI. “If Biden is elected, I think we might expect a government that is a little more predictable: less excessive, more political, less media-focused. ”

It would be, he said, probably more serene, but he was careful not to think that a Biden presidency would bring about a radical change vis-à-vis France.

“Biden’s campaign platform is just as protectionist and isolationist as Trump’s and although the form is different, his speeches echo the ‘Make America great’ slogans,” Huissoud said. “If Biden were elected, America would not become a fabulous great power in service. of the world overnight.

Europe the enemy?

Trump despised Europe, calling the European Union’s enemy of America in 2018. More recently, the introduction of trade tariffs on goods imported from Europe has hit French winegrowers head-on and made devastation on the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus.

A victory for Biden wouldn’t guarantee an end to trade disputes, but they could be a little nicer, Huissoud said.

“Biden doesn’t despise Europe as much as Trump does, he doesn’t see it as an economic enemy, so there could at least be an opportunity to settle a number of disagreements and have more exchange. “

Paris agreement

Donald Trump notably withdrew the United States from the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change. And it doesn’t matter who wins, it will go into effect on Wednesday.

But Biden has promised to join the deal if elected.

This could be good news for large French companies like Veolia and Suez which are working in greener and more sustainable energies and technologies.

” We have the expertise and we are ahead in terms of thinking and developing new technologies in this area, ”said Huissoud. “A reversal of the Paris climate agreement would clearly benefit us.”

Among those who have everything to gain from another Trump term are French companies working in the United States.

In 2017, 4,800 of these companies, employing 678,000 people, made France the largest foreign employer behind the United Kingdom and Japan. Companies there have benefited from much-vaunted tax cuts under Trump, but that a Biden administration would increase.

“Such a situation could be a little more complicated for companies that have specifically chosen to go to the United States for tax reasons,” Huissoud admitted. “But if they went there to conquer new markets, their impact will be quite limited.”

A mirror of society

Beyond the economic impact of the election results on France, the French media also benefit from a certain fascination with a turbulent American society.

In the early 2000s, when wars raged in Iraq and Afghanistan, the French media still covered international relations extensively. But the 2008 election of Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States, brought issues of race, race relations and police violence to the fore.

French television in particular is now devoting more and more time to social issues, recognizing itself in the tangled web of the right of women to control their own bodies, the place of racial minorities and the police brutalities that have shaken the United States since then. 2012.

Such controversies “offer us either a mirror on what could be happening here, or a contrast,” American specialist Thomas Snegaroff told INA. “They find themselves here, sometimes after a slight delay, and a generation of French activists are now taking certain movements in the United States as models,” he added.



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