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May and Trump to discuss trade, NATO, Russia and Syria

Trump recently described NATO as "obsolete"

London CNN  — 

British Prime Minister Theresa May is set to visit US President Donald Trump in Washington on Friday, making her the first foreign leader to meet with the newly inaugurated president.

Speaking in a televised interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr, May said she would discuss the countries’ future trade relations, the importance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Syrian conflict.

“What I think is important is that when I sit down, I will talk about how I can build on this special relationship. He has already said to me that he wants to see a very strong relationship between the US and the UK in the future,” May said.

The British Embassy in Washington confirmed the visit to CNN, saying that the leaders would also discuss relations with Russia and the global fight against terrorism.

Boosting trade with the United States will be high on May’s agenda. The prime minister said in a speech Tuesday that Britain would be looking to improve trade with countries outside the European Union once the country leaves the regional bloc.

May made clear Tuesday that the country would not remain part of the EU’s single market and customs union. The EU single market is essentially a free-trade zone allowing the free movement of people, goods, services and capital.

Britain voted to withdraw from the union in its “Brexit” referendum in June last year, raising concerns over whether Britain’s economy will prosper outside the single market.

The US is already Britain’s second-largest trading partner by country, after Germany. Trade between both countries is already more than 150 billion pounds ($186 billion), and the US is the single biggest source of inward investment to the UK, the embassy said.

May has also been invited to become the first serving foreign head of state to address the annual congressional Republican retreat, the British Embassy said. The party will map out its 2017 vision at the event, held Thursday in Philadelphia.

Trump’s comments on women ‘unacceptable’

May is Britain’s second female prime minister, and when asked by Marr whether she would bring up lewd comments made by Trump about women, she said that her mere presence at the meeting as a female leader would make “the biggest statement” about the role of women.

“First of all, I’ve already said that some of the comments that Donald Trump has made in relation to women are unacceptable. Some of those he himself has apologized for,” May said, before listing some of the women’s issues in which she’s been involved – including domestic violence and modern slavery.

“Whenever I find there is something unacceptable, I won’t be afraid to say that to Donald Trump,” she added. The interview came a day after millions of people took part in women’s rights protests around the world to show opposition to Trump’s comments and policy agenda on women’s issues.

On defense, Trump recently criticized NATO as “obsolete,” and his election has raised concerns about the alliance’s future.

NATO is a military and political alliance that bridges European nations and the United States. Russia sees the alliance as a threat to its position in the region.

Trump has signaled that he wants to see a major shift in US-Russia relations in his presidency. A closer relationship between the old Cold War foes could have a significant impact on world events.

On the Syria conflict, for example, the two powers stood fiercely on opposing sides at UN discussions, the Russians backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime while the US opposed him.

CNN’s Kevin Bohn, Elise Labott, Kevin Liptak and Ryan Browne contributed to this report.