WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump welcomed Argentine President Mauricio Macri to the White House for talks on Thursday and said the two countries will be "great friends, better than ever before."
A red carpet and military honor guard awaited Macri as his motorcade pulled up the driveway to the South Lawn entrance of the White House, where Trump and first lady Melania Trump greeted Macri and his wife, Juliana Awada. The men patted each other's backs as they turned and went inside. The couples then walked along the colonnade to the Oval Office, ladies first.
Trump and Macri enjoy a personal relationship dating back years from their days as businessmen, ties both hope to leverage to boost U.S.-Argentina relations.
Trump repeatedly referred to his counterpart as his "good friend" and praised Macri as "a great, wonderful person," and "a great leader."
"We're just going to be great friends, better than ever before," he said of his expectations for relations with the country as the pair met in the Oval Office before a working lunch. Journalists were allowed in at the beginning of both events.
Argentine journalists in the Oval Office asked about lemons. The Trump administration recently postponed a decision by former President Barack Obama to lift a 16-year ban on imports of Argentine lemons. Argentina is one of the world's top lemon producers.
"I think we're going to be very favorably disposed," Trump added, joking of their meeting: "I'll tell him about North Korea and he'll tell me about lemons."
To mark Macri's visit, the State Department released a batch of several hundred declassified U.S. government documents relating to human rights abuses committed during Argentina's 1976-1983 dictatorship.
The release is the third of its kind since former President Barack Obama announced the declassification project during a visit to Argentina last March. The first batch was released in August and the second in December. The documents belong to the CIA, FBI and other agencies. They date to the presidencies of Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.
The White House says the release was made at Macri's request.
Trump also announced on Thursday a new, bilateral cyber working group "which will help protect the security and economic interest of both of our countries," he said.
The White House said after the meetings that the leaders had discussed a range of bilateral and regional issues, including trade, security issues like narcotics trafficking and money laundering, as well as Venezuela's deteriorating political situation.
Trump said "it's very sad to see what's happening" in Venezuela, where tens of thousands of Venezuelans have taken to the streets over the past month to protest against socialist President Nicolas Maduro. They blame Maduro for triple-digit inflation, hours-long lines to get food, shortages of medical supplies and a rise in crime. Protesters have clashed with security forces, which have used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds, and looting has destroyed dozens of businesses.
White House officials point to the relationships Trump is building with his foreign counterparts as he approaches his 100th day in office. The president has spoken extensively in recent weeks about the "chemistry" he says he built with Chinese President Xi Jinping after their talks earlier this month at Trump's private estate in Florida.
Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report. Follow Darlene Superville and Jill Colvin on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap and http://www.twitter.com/colvinj