WASHINGTON – In a much anticipated visit, President Donald Trump met with Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull Friday in the nation’s capital.
Behind closed doors, the two world leaders discussed steps to building a Trans-Pacific Partnership, security in the Indo-Pacific region, as well as the future of sanctions against North Korea and what’s next in Iraq.
In a joint press conference in the East Room, Trump welcomed Turnbull, calling him a “friend” and thanking him for the “prayers and support of our Australian friends – and friends they are” in the wake of the recent mass shooting in Florida.
The prime minister offered his sympathies: “When you grieve, so do we,” he said.
Turnbull noted the meeting as a “great opportunity to strengthen and deepen our relationship,” calling the US its “most important strategic and economic partner.”
On the issue of job creation, Turnbull agrees with Trump about the need for tax reform, complementing the president on his policy and leadership in the business arena.
Turnbull pushed for more collaboration, saying, “Two great nations committed to competition, to freedom, to economic innovation, science and technology, working together complements each other,” which, according to the prime minister, has led to great success and job growth.
Reporters pelted the leaders with questions about everything from gun control to Syrian refugees.
On the issue of school shootings, President Trump vowed his administration will be “very strong on background checks, especially as it pertains to the mentally ill.”
Pushing for armed teachers in schools, Trump thinks it’s important to have “have offensive capability to take these people out rapidly before they can do this kind of damage.”
As for the threat of a nuclear armed North Korea or pressure from China, Trump and Turnbull both agree national security is a top priority.
Trump lauded the accomplishments of Australia, including its shared “commitment to keeping our people safe from terrorism.”
Australian troops are serving with American troops throughout the Middle East.
Turnbull, pointing to their century-old alliance dating back to fighting side by side in World War I, noted “that trust between the thousands of brave service men and women, that trust underpins our security.”
On the topic of immigration and refugees, Trump encouraged Turnbull to continue his immigration policies, known as merit-based immigration, “which really protects the interest of Australia and its people.”
President Trump and the prime minister both renewed their commitment as strong allies in an effort to put their somewhat rocky start behind them.
Many critics have pointed to this meeting as a crucial one, considering the first phone call between the two leaders after the president’s inauguration.
During that call, President Trump was quoted as saying “this is the most unpleasant call of the day.”
However, since that initial meeting the two have had numerous phones calls and found common ground.
Turnbull, a former lawyer and successful investment banker, knows the lingo of big business, which is right in the president’s wheel house.
According to an interview with CNN, Australia’s ambassador to the United States says despite early missteps, “the prime minister and the president actually are quite close and they respect each other.”
President Trump touted the relationship between the two nations: “The United States and Australia are currently honoring 100 years of mateship,” the president said, adding it is a partnership that has “thrived as a bulwark of freedom, security and democracy.”