WASHINGTON – Chile’s President Sebastian Piñera called on President Donald Trump at the White House for talks that focused on trade, security and the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.
The South American country has been affected by Trump’s trade fight with China, which is Chile’s largest trading partner. Chile is the world’s largest exporter of copper and its central bank has raised concerns about the U.S.-China trade and a decline in copper prices.
Trump, who welcomed the Chilean head of state to the Oval Office on Friday, praised Chile as “one of the most beautiful countries in the world” and raved about the South American country’s coastline. Piñera said the two nations were “likeminded countries,” the Associated Press reported.
Their meeting comes days after the U.S. president imposed financial sanctions on members of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s inner circle, including his wife, and suggested the socialist leader could be ousted in a military coup as a way to restore the country’s democracy.
Piñera, in his speech at the UN General Assembly on Thursday, said his government is willing to help Venezuelans and all citizens who wish to enter their country, as long as they respect the laws.
“We want to welcome all those who come to Chile to start a new life, and respect our laws. But also and with the same strength and conviction we want to put our house in order and stop the entry of those who do it illegally, those who do not respect our laws or who come to commit crimes,” the president said, adding the government of President Nicolás Maduro “does not respect the principles of freedom, nor human rights”.
“Venezuela is a mess and it’s got to be cleaned up and people have to be taken care of,” Trump said in response to a question from a reporter in Washington.
In a show of solidarity with his American counterpart, Piñera displayed for Trump a printout of a red-white-and-blue American flag that contained the outline of a small Chilean flag.
“This is the American flag, and there is the Chilean flag, right at the very heart of the U.S. flag,” Piñera said holding the print-out, bringing a smile to Trump’s face.
Both the two billionaires were entrepreneurs before entering politics in their respective countries.
It’s Pinera’s first visit to the White House since assuming office in March.
Yesterday, senior officials from the United States and Chile signed a framework to advance energy sector cooperation, promote investment in infrastructure, and strengthen energy security and economic prosperity.
Both leaders look forward to Chile’s leadership role as the host country for the 2019 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum annual summit, the White House said in a statement.