President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel sought to demonstrate the solidity of the French-German relationship at a meeting in southern France, one day before a key EU summit that may approve a divorce deal with Britain.
They started with a visit to the headquarters of plane-maker Airbus, widely seen as a symbol of European industrial cooperation, near the city of Toulouse.
The company, which is holding its 50th anniversary celebrations this year, has production and manufacturing facilities in countries including Germany, Spain and Britain.
J’ai souhaité que nous nous retrouvions à Toulouse, avec Angela Merkel, pour défendre un fleuron industriel, dans un moment de tensions commerciales. Aux côtés des femmes et des hommes d’Airbus, nous avons montré notre capacité à réussir ensemble. pic.twitter.com/zfORS5Nyy0
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) October 16, 2019
Mr Macron and Ms Merkel had lunch inside a training A350 airbus — where a long table had been set — with high school students and apprentices preparing for a career in aircraft industry.
They were then due to hold bilateral talks in Toulouse, before a joint French-German cabinet meeting.
Mr Macron and Ms Merkel were to discuss Brexit as EU and British officials were scrambling to strike a deal before Thursday’s summit in Brussels — the last one planned for before Britain’s scheduled departure from the EU on October 31.
The French and German delegations, including key ministers from both governments, were also planning talks on global trade tensions, the fight against climate change, European defence projects and how to defend EU copyright rules, Mr Macron’s office said.
French and German defence ministers will try to elaborate common rules on arms exports during a defence security council.
Both countries decided to halt weapons exports to Turkey after the offensive in northeast Syria last week.
Germany has also banned defence industry exports to Saudi Arabia over the war in Yemen — while France has not.
Later today, after a joint news conference, Mr Macron and Ms Merkel will welcome incoming European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen for a dinner with members of the European Round Table of Industrialists, a group gathering over 50 major European multinational companies.
They are expected to discuss the US decision to put tariffs worth 7.5 billion dollars (£5.8bn) on EU goods such as wine, cheese and olive oil, following a green light from the World Trade Organisation in a case involving illegal EU subsidies for Airbus.
The tariffs, to take effect on Friday, will be 10% for EU aircraft and 25% for everything else.