May's US visit: US-UK relation to enter new era

Written by: IANS
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Washington, Jan 27: Donald Trump will on Friday welcome British Prime Minister Theresa May, first foreign leader to visit the Oval Office after the former took oath as the US President .

Both the new US President and the British PM, who took office in July last year, have strong political incentives, CNN reported.

British Prime Minister Theresa May

May has told Britons their country will be a robust global trading power once it exits the European Union, and a free-trade deal with the US is the most important pillar of that plan. Trump also seems interested in talking up a trade deal with Britain.

The envisioned agreement with Britain is exactly the kind of bilateral pact the Trump administration says is the model for US trade policy going forward.

However, he previewed the visit by griping that Democrats have yet to confirm his Commerce Secretary pick, Wilbur Ross.

"I'm meeting the Prime Minister tomorrow, as you know. Great Britain ... I don't have my Commerce Secretary -- they want to talk trade. So, I'll have to handle it myself. Which is okay," he told Republican lawmakers in Philadelphia on Thursday.

Trump's need for a successful outcome became more acute on Thursday when a spat with Mexico over his vow to build a border wall caused President Enrique Pena Nieto to cancel a visit to the White House.

May will be in the Oval Office exactly seven days after Trump was inaugurated. It is being seen by her entourage as a sign of the new President's respect for Britain.

May will use the visit to stress that though Britain is leaving Europe and Trump is suspicious of US attachments abroad, the two nations can still combine to be a force that can shape the world.

"As we rediscover our confidence together -- as you renew your nation just as we renew ours -- we have the opportunity, indeed the responsibility, to renew the 'special relationship' for this new age," May told GOP lawmakers on Thursday in Philadelphia, her first US stop.

"We have the opportunity to lead, together, again," she added.

The British Prime Minister will also have the benefit of the advice of former president Barack Obama, who urged her to develop a close relationship with Trump so that she and other centre-right world leaders could be a moderating influence on him, said a former Obama administration official and a British official familiar with the conversations.

Trump and May also have their share of disagreements. Her visit will be the first test of some of Trump's most controversial views on foreign policy.

Trump's statements that NATO is obsolete and he wants to improve relations with Russia that has been testing the borders of post-Cold War Europe have triggered alarm on the other side of the Atlantic.

According to the CNN, the no-nonsense Prime Minister is making clear that while she plans to forge a close relationship with Trump, she will not hesitate to speak her mind.

"I am not afraid to speak frankly to the President of the US," May said in the parliament on Wednesday. "I am able to do that because we have this special relationship."

Britain's calls for all members to meet their military spending target of two per cent of GDP, may allow her government to become a point of liaison between states in the western alliance and the new President, who has frequently groused that US allies have not done enough to pay for their own defence.

Trump backed the British exit from the EU and hopes more countries follow suit -- in direct contravention of decades of US foreign policy that saw stability in a united Europe.

May did not back Brexit, but in the political carnage that followed the referendum, she found herself Prime Minister and must now manage the most volatile political turbulence in western Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

IANS

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