WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump will make the case that the United States - and not China - should be the trade "partner of choice" for Latin America when he speaks at a regional summit next week, a senior administration official said on Thursday.
Trump is due to make his first visit to the region late next week to attend the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru. The trip comes as his government is waging a trade battle with China and pushing to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement.
"President Trump has been very clear ... in terms of his economic policies that the Chinese economic aggression in the region has not been productive for the hemisphere and that the United States should remain the partner of choice for them," the official told reporters on a conference call.
Substantive discussions on NAFTA are not expected at the summit, the official said.
Trump will deliver an address to the summit where he will talk about "shared values" in the hemisphere and the need to reduce drug trafficking, the official said.
It was unclear how much emphasis Trump would place on stopping illegal immigration from the region into the United States - one of his main promises in his presidential run for office.
Leading up to the summit, Trump announced this week he wants to post National Guard troops along the southern border with Mexico, and has also ramped up tough rhetoric against illegal immigrants from Honduras and other parts of Central America.
"I think the president is a very straight speaker. He speaks what's on his mind," the official said.
Trump also plans to address the crisis in Venezuela with regional leaders, the official said. But the U.S. government is still examining its next steps for sanctions on Venezuela with new announcements not expected for several months, the official said.