WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump held an Oval Office meeting Friday with British Prime Minister Theresa May, a friendly ally who hopes to nudge the populist president toward the political mainstream.
Trump’s first meeting with a world leader since taking office came a day after Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto called off his own trip to Washington next week amid wrangling over who will pay for Trump’s planned wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump’s spokesman said the president would seek a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports to pay for the barrier, then later clarified that such a tax would be a possible approach.
May’s meeting with the president is being hailed by the British government as a sign that the trans-Atlantic “special relationship” is valued by the new administration.
Trump welcomed May and promptly showed off a bust of Winston Churchill, one of May’s predecessors, on display in his office.
“It’s a great honor to have Winston Churchill back,” Trump said. The bust had been moved to another part of the White House when Barack Obama held the office.
May said it was “an honor” to be at the White House.
The White House said Trump and May will hold talks, followed by a press conference and a working lunch.
Trump is something of a mystery to world leaders, many of whom expected Democrat Hillary Clinton to win the election. His administration’s main interlocutors with foreign governments so far—including son-in-law Jared Kushner and senior adviser Steve Bannon, a conservative media executive—are also unknown to many of their counterparts.
She has strong reasons for wanting the relationship to work. Britain is set to leave the European Union and its 500 million-person single market. A trade deal with the U.S., Britain’s biggest export market, is a major prize.
Trump has drawn parallels between Britain’s choice to leave the EU and his own success, using the Brexit vote to bolster his derision of the 28-nation bloc and his preference for striking bilateral agreements.