France's President Emmanuel Macron has fired a volley at his American hosts on the first day of a rare state visit to Washington.
Macron told lawmakers on Wednesday that US industrial subsidies are "super aggressive" against French competitors.
"This is super aggressive for our business people," an AFP news agency reporter heard Macron tell members of Congress and business leaders, ahead of the main part of the state visit on Thursday, when the French leader will spend most of the day with President Joe Biden.
Macron was referring to Biden's signature policy called the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which is set to pour billions of dollars into environmentally friendly industries — with strong backing for US-based manufacturers.
Macron's assessment, saying he just wanted "to be respected as a good friend," tore some of the veneer off a carefully choreographed state visit intended to celebrate historic US-French ties — and also tackle the trickier parts of the US-EU transatlantic alliance.
"I don't want to become a market to sell American products because I have exactly the same products as you," said Macron, stressing that France had its own middle class in need of employment.
"And the consequence of the IRA is that you will perhaps fix your issue but you will increase my problem. I'm sorry to be so straightforward," he said.
The White House responded by insisting that the state visit is about the two presidents' "warm relationship."
'Choices that will split the West'
The White House touts the IRA legislation as a groundbreaking effort to reignite US manufacturing and promote renewable technologies, but European Union governments are crying foul, threatening to launch a trade war by subsidising their own green economy sector.
US advances in the clean energy economy will help Europeans too, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. The IRA "presents significant opportunities for European firms as well as benefits to EU energy security. This is not a zero-sum game."
In a speech later at the French embassy, Macron insisted on the subsidies issue and said they could become a real sticking point in US relations with Europe.
While voicing support for the environmental goals of the IRA, Macron said, "These are choices that will split the West."
Still, Macron said US-French ties remain solid, calling on both countries to heed "the bonds that history has forged between us, an alliance stronger than anything."