US vice-president Kamala Harris. Picture: REUTERS//EVELYN HOCKSTEIN
US vice-president Kamala Harris. Picture: REUTERS//EVELYN HOCKSTEIN

US Vice-President Kamala Harris is embarking on five days of personal diplomacy in France as she aims to raise her international profile and continue healing a rift between the US and its oldest ally.

Harris is to mingle with officials from a couple dozen countries as she showers attention on President Emmanuel Macron.

“It is good to be in France,” she said after disembarking at Paris Orly Airport. “I am looking forward to many, many days of productive discussions reinforcing the strength of our relationship.”

US-France ties have been strained in recent months after Australia cancelled  a $66bn submarine contract with France in favour of a new security pact and nuclear-powered submarine deal with the US and UK.

“We are focused on looking forward, not looking backward,” Harris adviser and spokesperson Symone Sanders said aboard Air Force Two when asked about the submarine row.

This is the third international trip for Harris — but perhaps the first not eclipsed by a pressing crisis. Her journey to Central America earlier this year was dominated by her “do not come” warning to would-be migrants in Guatemala and by her defence of her decision not to visit the US-Mexico border by saying: “And I haven’t been to Europe.”

Then her visit to Southeast Asia in August was overshadowed by the turbulent US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the death of 13 American service members in a bomb attack.

Harris and Macron have a bilateral meeting planned at the Élysée Palace on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Harris will speak at the Paris Peace Forum, an event focused on gaps in global governance, before having dinner with Macron.

She will also attend a conference on Friday, co-hosted by Macron, meant to show support for the Libyan people as they near elections.

One of her first scheduled stops after arriving on Tuesday morning was the Institut Pasteur, the research facility where aides said her mother conducted breast cancer research in the 1980s.

Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff plans solo excursions aimed at pushing a message of “sports diplomacy” targeted at girls and young women, aides said. 

Harris isn’t missing chances to draw contrasts with former president Donald Trump, who skipped annual global meetings and stoked tension with European leaders with his nationalist, “America First” agenda. 

Harris and Emhoff will mark Veterans Day — honoured as Armistice Day in France — with a visit to Suresnes, a cemetery originally dedicated to US troops killed in World War 1. Trump went to Suresnes shortly after facing a backlash for missing a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in northern France in 2018 due to rainy weather.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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