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On the heels of President Biden’s meetings with world leaders in Rome and Glasgow, Vice President Harris is set to make a diplomatic overture of her own.
It’s her third international trip as vice president. But in contrast to her first two, where she met with individual heads of state and focused on bilateral relationships, an upcoming trip to Paris will be the first where Harris is the top White House official at a large gathering of world leaders.
“This is a great opportunity for her to continue to develop her partnership, not just with [French] President [Emmanuel] Macron, but with what we expect will probably be 25 other world leaders,” a senior administration official told reporters on a preview call about the trip.
The trip gives the vice president an international stage to build her own foreign policy muscles.
“She’s not terribly experienced on foreign policy. So she’s got to get that experience: meet foreign leaders, travel, develop her own views,” said Colin Dueck, a former foreign policy adviser on multiple Republican presidential campaigns who now teaches at George Mason University.
The trip will also be an opportunity for the Biden administration to reiterate two key foreign policy goals: repairing alliances and bringing a multilateral approach back to combat common challenges.
Harris will deliver an address to the Paris Peace Forum, a conference that focuses on global governance issues, on Nov. 11. “You can expect the vice president in her speech to focus her remarks on some big, converging global crises … in particular, the challenge of rising inequality and the need for leaders around the world to join together and take bold action,” a second administration official told reporters.
The forum will give Harris an opportunity for “candid conversations on all of these challenges, including the need to reinforce global institutions and to shore up democracies in the face of authoritarianism,” the official said.
The next day, she will participate in an international conference aimed at showing support for upcoming national elections in Libya, a country that has struggled with civil war and instability for the last decade.
While in Paris, Harris will also hold a bilateral meeting with Macron, part of a full-court effort to repair the United States’ relationship with France, which suffered a rocky patch after a U.S. deal on nuclear-powered submarines with Australia shut France out of a contract, angering France to the point that it took the highly unusual step of recalling its ambassador to the United States.
“The key message for this meeting is the importance of this relationship and the fact that the U.S.-French partnership matters to the world,” an official told reporters.
Biden met with Macron last week in Rome to try to alleviate any remaining ill feelings. Biden acknowledged the U.S. announcement of the deal had been “clumsy.”
Transatlantic experts say the United States has gone on the charm offensive with France for the last month and a half to try to heal the submarine rift.
“The vice president’s visit is sort of the last straw of this procession of high-level American officials who who are coming, passing by Paris or meeting with the French in order to remind everybody that they value the French-American relationship, that they value the bilateral relationship in the context of Europe,” said Celia Belin, a visiting fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution.
Harris will start her trip in Paris on Nov. 9 with a tour of the Institut Pasteur. Her mother, a breast cancer researcher, worked with scientists from the world-renowned center in the 1980s.
Harris and her husband Douglas Emhoff will also visit the Suresnes American Cemetery on the eve of Veterans Day in the U.S. and Armistice Day in France.