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Trump, May seek to lay groundwork for US-UK trade deal

President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May on Jan. 27 said they planned to build on the two nations' "special relationship" through a potential new trade agreement and other efforts.

"Today, the United States renews our deep bond with Britain — military, financial, cultural and political," Trump said during a White House news conference. "We pledge our lasting support to this most special relationship. Together, America and the United Kingdom are the beacon for prosperity and the rule of law."

May, who became prime minister in July 2016 after the U.K. voted to exit the European Union, is the first foreign leader to visit the White House since Trump was sworn in on Jan. 20.

She congratulated Trump for his "stunning" victory in November 2016 over Hillary Clinton, while the new president showered praise on the U.K.'s Brexit decision. "A free and independent Britain is a blessing to the world, and our relationship has never been stronger," Trump said. "That's why the United States respects the sovereignty of the British people and their right of self-determination."

May said she and Trump were looking forward to building on their nation's bond "to grow our respective economies, provide high-skilled, high-paid jobs as the future for working people across America and across the U.K."

The two leaders discussed how they could establish a trade negotiation agreement and commence high-level talks to lay the groundwork for a U.S.-U.K. deal. Part of that work, May said, would include identifying the practical steps the nations can take now to enable companies in both nations to trade and do business with one another more easily.

"I am convinced that a trade deal between the U.S. and U.K. is in the national interest of both countries and it will cement the crucial relationship that exists between us, particularly as the U.K. leaves the European Union and reaches out to the world," the British prime minister said. "Today's talks are a significant moment for the President Trump and I to build our relationship."

Overshadowing the meeting was Trump's recent spat with Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto over which country will pay for Trump's proposed border wall between the two nations. Trump and Peña Nieto were scheduled to meet Jan. 31, but Peña Nieto abruptly canceled.

Trump's desire to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada is another sore spot between the U.S. and Mexico.

Mexico has "out-negotiated us and beat us to a pulp through our past leaders. They've made us look foolish," Trump told reporters Jan. 27, though he acknowledged that he and Peña Nieto held an hour-long call just before the news conference. "We have a very good relationship," Trump said of Peña Nieto.

After the news conference with May, the White House issued a joint statement with Peña Nieto's office, stating that "both presidents recognize their clear and very public differences of positions" on payment for Trump's proposed border wall.

The two have "agreed to work these differences out as part of a comprehensive discussion on all aspects of the bilateral relationship," the statement said. "Both presidents have instructed their teams to continue the dialogue to strengthen this important strategic and economic relationship in a constructive way."

Trump also said at the news conference that he plans to speak with Russian president Vladimir Putin on Jan. 28, but he would not say whether he would favor lifting the sanctions related to Russia's military involvement in Ukraine.

"If we could have a good relationship with Russia and with China and with all countries, I'm all for that," Trump said.

May said she believes that the sanctions on Russia should continue.

May also extended an invitation from Queen Elizabeth II to Trump and the first lady to visit Britain later this year. Trump accepted.