- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 22, 2017

President Trump told his senior White House staff Sunday that the new administration will do “great things over the next eight years” for America, as he conferred with foreign heads of state such as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and scheduled meetings with the leaders of Mexico and Canada amid plans to renegotiate the NAFTA free-trade deal.

During a swearing-in ceremony Sunday for senior White House aides, Mr. Trump said his administration’s mission is “not about party.”

“This is not about ideology,” Mr. Trump said. “This is about country. It’s about serving the American people. We’re not here to help ourselves … so many people are dependent on us.”

The president and Vice President Mike Pence presided at a ceremony in the East Room to swear in the new White House leadership team of 30 staffers, including White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway, senior adviser Jared Kushner, senior strategist Stephen Bannon, senior adviser for policy Stephen Miller, press secretary Sean Spicer, national security adviser Mike Flynn, director of strategic communications Hope Hicks and Omarosa Manigault, assistant to the president and director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison.

“We will prove worthy of this moment in history,” Mr. Trump told his staffers. “Each and everyone of you should be extremely proud. We will face challenges. But with faith in each other and faith in God, we will get the job done.”

Mr. Trump said he has scheduled a meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Jan. 31 to discuss his concerns about illegal immigration and border security, and his desire to improve the Clinton-era North American Free Trade Agreement that is blamed for the loss of manufacturing jobs to Mexico.

“We’re going to renegotiate on NAFTA, on immigration and on security at the border,” Mr. Trump said. “I ran a campaign somewhat based on NAFTA. I think we’re going to have a good result for the United States, for Mexico and for everybody involved. It’s very very important.”

During his campaign, Mr. Trump pledged to build a wall along the Mexican border and to force Mexico to pay for it. Mexican officials have said they won’t pay for a wall.

The new president spoke by phone with Mr. Pena Nieto on Saturday, his first phone call with a foreign leader since his inauguration.

“Mexico has been terrific, actually, terrific,” Mr. Trump said. “And the president has been really very amazing.”

The Mexican leader’s office said Mr. Pena Nieto congratulated Mr. Trump on his inauguration and expressed willingness to work together “with a focus on respect for the sovereignty of both nations and shared responsibility.”

A high-level Mexican delegation is scheduled to hold talks with Trump administration officials in Washington on Wednesday and Thursday.

Mr. Trump said he’ll also meet soon with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. And he scheduled his first face-to-face meeting with a foreign leader for Friday, when he’ll meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May at the White House.

The president also said he had a “very nice” phone call Sunday afternoon with Mr. Netanyahu, but did not elaborate. He declined to answer a reporter’s question about a report by Israeli media that the new administration plans to make an announcement on Monday about plans to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The White House downplayed the reports of an imminent announcement, saying in a statement on Sunday, “We are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject.”

Mr. Trump has pledged to forge a closer relationship with the Israeli government than the Obama administration.

The Palestinians have said that moving the U.S. Embassy would kill any chance of peace. Former President Obama said before leaving office last week that the Trump administration should proceed cautiously, warning that the move could have “explosive” consequences.

Mr. Trump told the Israel Hayom Hebrew-language newspaper last week that “clearly I did not forget” his promise during the campaign to move the embassy.

“You know that I am not a person who breaks promises,” he said.

The White House said Mr. Trump “emphasized that peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be negotiated directly between the two parties, and that the United States will work closely with Israel to make progress towards that goal.” Mr. Trump invited Mr. Netanyahu to the White House for a meeting in early February.

Mr. Trump discussed “the importance the United States places on our close military, intelligence, and security cooperation with Israel, which reflects the deep and abiding partnership between our countries.” The White House statement made no mention of the embassy issue.

The two leaders discussed addressing the threats posed by Iran, and Mr. Trump “stressed that countering [the Islamic State] and other radical Islamic terrorist groups will be a priority for his administration,” the White House said.

On the upcoming meeting with Ms. May, the British Embassy in Washington said the meeting will “primarily be an opportunity to get to know one another and to establish the basis for a productive working relationship.”

“The leaders are expected to discuss a number of the most pressing global issues, notably tackling terrorism, Syria, relations with Russia and cooperation in NATO,” the embassy said. “The prime minister and president will also discuss how we can deepen our already huge economic and commercial relationship to the benefit of both of our countries.”

The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union, and trade between Britain and the U.S. is worth more than $150 billion annually. Both governments have a “shared ambition” to sign a new trade deal after Britain leaves the EU, the embassy said.

Ms. May also will speak at the annual congressional Republican retreat in Philadelphia on Thursday.

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