France’s president considering visit to New Orleans, first since 1976, report says

French President Emmanuel Macron is considering traveling to New Orleans in the days ahead as part of his state visit to the U.S., French media reported Tuesday, in what would be a first by a French head of state since 1976.

The trip would come in connection with Macron’s state visit from Nov. 30-Dec. 2 and is likely to focus on historical ties and potentially environmental issues, one of the French president’s major points of focus. The New Orleans leg has not been officially confirmed, but is being strongly considered, French news magazine Le Point reported, citing an anonymous source with the French presidency. The French consulate in New Orleans was not able to confirm the report.

It would hold heavy symbolism given the links between France and its ex-colony. It comes just over three centuries after New Orleans’ founding in the territory claimed by France, eventually sold to the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

Macron has expressed his deep interest in promoting the French language globally, and France has long supported efforts to preserve the use of French dialects in Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole communities. Louisiana joined the international organization of French-speaking governments, the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, as an observer in 2018.

The source cited by Le Point said the visit would be an opportunity to celebrate the “French spirit” in Louisiana.

Local officials had hoped for a French presidential visit when New Orleans celebrated its 300-year anniversary that year, but Macron was not able to schedule a detour from his state visit to Washington then. Instead, Louisiana officials, including Gov. John Bel Edwards and U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, attended the state dinner in Washington, which included a jambalaya dish — though Kennedy described it as “Washington jambalaya.”

The upcoming visit would count as a make-up – and would surely be widely welcomed by state and local officials eager to promote Louisiana as a business and tourism destination.

The last visit by a French president to Louisiana was in 1976, when Valery Giscard d’Estaing traveled to Lafayette and New Orleans as part of another state visit. That visit saw Giscard d’Estaing speak at Lafayette’s Blackham Coliseum and at a luncheon at the Superdome, which had opened less than a year earlier.

French President Charles de Gaulle also visited New Orleans in 1960.

Jackson Square: See vintage photos of New Orleans' gathering place

A shy child is held up so she can present flowers to French President Valery Giscard D’Estaing during a walking tour around Jackson Square in New Orleans’ French Quarter Friday afternoon. With Giscard d’Estaing is New Orleans Archbishop Philip Hannan. 

Macron’s trip will mark the first state visit of President Joe Biden’s tenure, with the pandemic having delayed plans. It will no doubt be consumed by the full range of global concerns, from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to trade relations and energy supplies.

But environmental issues may play an important role, particularly following this month’s COP27 climate summit in Egypt. Macron has sought to position France as a leader in the fight against climate change.

Louisiana would serve as an appropriate backdrop for Macron’s environmental concerns. Seen by some experts as the U.S. state most threatened by climate change, Louisiana will have to battle a litany of effects in the years ahead.

Perhaps most pressing is sea-level rise, one of a number of factors wiping out Louisiana’s coast.

At the same time, energy discussions may also involve Louisiana. With the supply of Russian natural gas cut due to its invasion of Ukraine, European nations have been in search of alternative sources, including liquefied natural gas, or LNG, from Louisiana.

Southwest Louisiana has emerged as a hub for the production of LNG.

While promoted by the state and industry officials as cleaner than coal, natural gas is nonetheless a fossil fuel that emits significant amounts of greenhouse gases, which drive climate change. Environmentalists oppose its expanded use for that reason and say nations should focus more on developing renewable energy instead.


The statue of St. Joan of Arc, a gift from the citizens of France in 1972, is seen during a Bastille Day celebration in the French Quarter.

While France imports significant amounts of oil and natural gas, its emissions related to electricity have been lower than those of other countries because of its wide use of nuclear power. It has been seeking to move toward renewable sources and in 2019 passed a law on achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

France has in some ways become synonymous with the global effort to combat global warming. The Paris Agreement treaty, inked in 2015, aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.

Former President Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris accord. On Biden’s first day in office in January 2021, he recommitted the U.S. to the deal.

Read More: France’s president considering visit to New Orleans, first since 1976, report says

You might also like