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World

Trump Hosts British Prime Minister Theresa May At The White House

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Today, we got an early glimpse of President Donald Trump's America-first approach to foreign policy. Trump spoke by telephone with Mexico's president. It was a makeup session after the two leaders engaged in an angry back and forth yesterday. And he held his first face-to-face meeting with a foreign leader at the White House, a largely friendly get together with the prime minister of the United Kingdom. NPR's Scott Horsley has more.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Trump posed for photographs today alongside two prime ministers - the current U.K. leader, Theresa May, and a bust of Winston Churchill that Trump put back in the Oval Office when he moved in a week ago.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This is the original, folks. This is the original in many ways.

HORSLEY: Trump, whose mother is from Scotland, was eager to talk about what's often described as the special relationship between the U.S. and the U.K., especially now that Great Britain is divorcing itself from the rest of the European Union.

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TRUMP: I think Brexit's going to be a wonderful thing for your country. I think when it irons out, you're going to have your own identity, and you're going to have the people that you want in your country. And you're going to be able to make free trade deals without having somebody watching you and what you're doing.

HORSLEY: The Brexit vote, like Trump's own victory here in the U.S., can be seen as a rejection of globalization. But while Trump championed that change, May is carrying it out reluctantly. She remains far more invested in European institutions than Trump is. Trump, for example, has questioned the relevance of NATO, though May says she did get a commitment from him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: Mr. President, I think you said you confirmed that you're 100 percent behind NATO.

HORSLEY: May is also more suspicious than Trump of Russia and more committed to maintaining sanctions against Russia until it lives up to its promises to stop interfering in Ukraine.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MAY: We have been very clear that we want to see the Minsk agreement fully implemented. We believe the sanctions should continue until we see that Minsk agreement fully implemented.

HORSLEY: A big part of the British prime minister's purpose on this trip is launching trade talks with the U.S. to replace the free market the U.K. is losing in Europe.

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MAY: And I'm convinced that a trade deal between the U.S. and the U.K. is in the national interest of both countries and will cement the crucial relationship that exists between us, particularly as the U.K. leaves the European Union and reaches out to the world.

HORSLEY: The U.S. already trades more than $100 billion a year with the U.K., but that's dwarfed by America's trade ties with Mexico, a relationship that Trump rattled this week with his order to start work on the border wall and his public spat with the Mexican president over who would pay for it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: The United States cannot continue to lose vast amounts of business, vast amounts of companies and millions and millions of people losing their jobs. That won't happen with me. We're no longer going to be the country that doesn't know what it's doing.

HORSLEY: Trump spoke for an hour this morning by telephone with Mexico's president, and the leaders agreed their teams would keep talking. A statement from the Mexican side says they also agreed for now to hold off making public comments about how the wall will be funded. Trump described it as a friendly call. After a first week in the White House that was often unpredictable, the president hinted there's more of that to come.

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TRUMP: I've had many times where I thought I'd get along with people, and I don't like them at all.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: And I've had some where I didn't think I was going to have much of a relationship, and it turned out to be a great relationship.

HORSLEY: A big question mark remains - Trump's relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two are set to talk by telephone tomorrow. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.