May likely to discuss trade deal at talks with Trump

Mrs May has said she will stress her desire for continued cooperation between Britain and its continental partners during her talks with Mr Trump.
Mrs May has said she will stress her desire for continued cooperation between Britain and its continental partners during her talks with Mr Trump.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

British PM will be first foreign leader to meet new US president; EU also expected to be on agenda

LONDON • British Prime Minister Theresa May will be in the United States for talks with President Donald Trump on Friday, with a post-Brexit free trade deal expected to be high on the agenda.

That Mrs May will become the first foreign leader to meet the new president is seen as politically significant by analysts.

Mr Trump has said in remarks this month that leaving the 28-nation European Union, a decision taken by British voters in a referendum last year, will be good for Britain and that he will offer the nation a quick and "fair" trade deal.

As if to underscore the "special relationship" between the two countries, he reinstalled a bust of Winston Churchill in the Oval Office that was removed during the Barack Obama administration.

Apart from a new trade deal, British media said, the two leaders are expected to discuss maintaining European unity.

Mrs May told the Financial Times (FT) that she expects "very frank" talks and will stress her desire for a strong Europe and continued cooperation between Britain and its continental partners on issues such as defence and security. Her comments followed remarks by Mr Trump this month that the EU is an instrument of German domination designed to beat the US in global trade, and he is fairly indifferent as to whether the bloc stays together.

Mrs May also said she is sure that Mr Trump "recognises the importance and significance of Nato", according to the FT.

In an interview with German newspaper Bild before his inauguration, Mr Trump said the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is obsolete and urged more nations to pay their fair share towards its costs.

Britain, which plans to start two years of negotiations to leave the EU by the end of March, cannot strike new trade accords until it has left or at least left the bloc's Customs Union.

The Trump administration and the British government will soon begin laying the groundwork for a trade agreement to take effect after Britain leaves the EU, a White House aide said.

Two of Mr Trump's senior advisers, son-in-law Jared Kushner and Mr Steve Bannon, met British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in New York on Jan 8. The three are preparing for the future pact, said the aide, who requested anonymity.

After Mrs May, Mr Trump will meet Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Jan 31, said the White House.

Trade, immigration and Mr Trump's campaign promise to build a wall on the border with Mexico loom large in his relations with Mexico. Mr Trump also wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada to give US workers, he has said, a fair deal.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2017, with the headline 'May likely to discuss trade deal at talks with Trump'. Print Edition | Subscribe