Vice President Bush arrived here today forecasting a U.S. economic recovery that would also help western Europe. He also endorsed France's independent nuclear forces and its approach to the arms issue in Europe generally.
Each of these points, made by Bush in private meetings with French President Francois Mitterrand and Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson and then repeated at a crowded news conference here, undoubtedly will be welcomed by the French government.
France is the sixth stop in Bush's seven-nation tour of western Europe. His journey is meant to shore up support for the western plan to deploy new medium-ranged U.S. missiles in Europe later this year unless Moscow signs an arms-control agreement that would ban such missiles.
Although the new U.S. missile deployments are controversial in Europe, Bush said that in his discussions with allied leaders thus far he had detected "no inclination to knuckle under" or depart from the allied commitment to deploy those missiles on schedule barring an agreement.
France, like many west European countries, has serious economic problems: a recession combined with high inflation and too little investment. Mitterrand's socialist government has been counting, in part, on an American recovery to help put France back on its feet.
Bush said he and Martin Feldstein, chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, who has been traveling with him, have been "conveying to our allies that the United States expects to show real economic growth in 1983, which we hope will provide a backdrop for growth in the western European countries and, indeed, in the Third World," Bush said.
Bush acknowledged, however, that in his private talks he ran into some French opposition to U.S. trade policies, especially a recent U.S. grain deal with Egypt that cut France out of a traditional market and which Cheysson has labeled "American aggression."
Today, Bush said, "If they've got problems with this one, we've got six others we can talk about," meaning American grievances over European trade policies. Talks are under way to try to resolve these differences.
The dominant subject here, however, was the missile question, which looms over all of Europe and East-West relations.
France has been perhaps the staunchest supporter of the allied plan to deploy the new missiles if no agreement on balanced forces is reached first.
The French, however, are not in the military portion of the NATO alliance, just the political portion, and France is not one of the five countries scheduled to receive the missiles.
Nevertheless, Mitterrand reportedly sees the need for the missiles as a test of the alliance's will to defend itself and stick together.
At his news conference Bush also said "there is no flexibility in the United States position" opposing the Soviets' demand that 162 French and British missiles be included in the calculations of U.S. and Soviet negotiators at the Geneva arms talks.
Bush said he agrees completely with Mitterrand, who has pointed out that those weapons are not under NATO command, and are meant to deter a Soviet attack on France or Britain. They are no substitute, Bush said, for a U.S. nuclear guarantee to NATO members that are not nuclear powers.