In Philly: British leader May warms to Trump as she quits Europe

APTOPIX Britain Brexit
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech on leaving the European Union at Lancaster House in London on Jan. 17

What will British Prime Minister Theresa May tell President Trump and Republicans in Congress when she visits them in Philadelphia and Washington this week? She doesn't plan to take questions from us "regional press," the British Embassy in Washington told me. They sent this statement:

May "is expected to be the first world leader to hold face to face talks with President Trump" when she meets him in the Oval Office Friday. "This will primarily be an opportunity to get to know one another and to establish the basis for a productive working relationship." They'll talk about "the most pressing global issues, notably tackling terrorism, Syria, relations with Russia and cooperation in NATO."  

The two leaders "will also discuss how we can deepen our already huge economic and commercial relationship to the benefit of both of our countries, including our shared ambition to sign a U.K.-US trade deal once the U.K. has left the EU." American capital "is the single biggest source of inward investment to the U.K.."

Since May wants "strong links" with Washington as she pulls away from the European government in Brussels, she "has also been invited to become the first serving head of state or government outside the U.S. to address the annual congressional Republican retreat, when it gathers for its 30th anniversary in Philadelphia on Thursday," where GOP members will gather to talk 2017 priorities.

May's appearance "will provide a platform for the [Prime Minister] to set out how we want to advance the special relationship in the coming years and work together on a number of shared challenges."

Like what? I asked. NATO? Trade? The British referred me to last weekend's May interview with the BBC's Andrew Marr. Highlights from that transcript:

BBC: [President Trump] has called NATO obsolete. 
May: No, he has shown also – I’ve spoken to him about NATO. NATO is very important. NATO has been the bulwark of our security here in Europe and we work together in NATO. We’ve both made the point before about contributions being made by countries. The United Kingdom is spending 2% of its GDP on defence. I believe that’s important. 

 

BBC: Do you agree with what he said about other NATO countries not paying their way?
May: Well, there are other NATO countries that are also paying 2% of their GDP on defence, and others that are working towards to doing that. What is important is that we recognise the value of NATO – which [Trump] does. The value of NATO as an organisation that is helping us to defend Europe and defend the interests of all of those allies who are in NATO. 

BBC: Now, post-Brexit we need a good free trade deal from Donald Trump, and yet this is the most protectionist president America has had for a very, very long time. You were lauding free trade at Davos in Switzerland, the Chinese talk about free trade. Donald Trump wants to tear up free trade agreements and he’s said, ‘Buy American, hire American.’ How is this going to be a man that we can do a good deal with? 
May: Well, he’s also – he and people around him have also spoken about the importance of a trade arrangement with the United Kingdom, and that that is something that they’re looking to talk to us about at an early stage, and I would expect to be able to talk to him about that alongside the other issues I’ll be discussing with him when I’m in Washington. I think free trade is important around the world. I believe globalisation is important. I believe this does bring economic benefits to our countries. But we do need to make sure, as I said in Davos this week, that those economic benefits, that prosperity, is spread across the whole of the U.K.  

The British American Business Council of Greater Philadelphia, which is cheering May's visit, sends this data about U.K.-U.S. trade. it shows Pennsylvania ran a sharp trade deficit, importing far more from the U.K. than it exports, but the gap has been closing in recent years:

• The U.K. is the third-largest market in the world behind Canada and Mexico, respectively, for Pennsylvania exports.  5.9% of Pennsylvania exports go to the U.K. 

Top Exports from Pennsylvania to the U.K. include: chemicals $801 million; transportation equipment $466 million; primary metals $195 million; and machinery, except electrical $171 million. 

Pennsylvania exports to the U.K. rose to $2.3 billion in 2015, up from $1.8 billion in 2014, and $1.5 billion in 2013.

• The U.K. is the 8th largest source of imports into Pennsylvania.  3.2% of Pennsylvania imports come from the U.K.. 

Pennsylvania imports from the U.K. have been relatively steady for the past three years: $2.5 billion in 2015; $2.6 billion 2014; and $2.4 billion in 2013.