WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and the prime minister of Slovakia congratulated each other Friday on the respective strength of their nations’ economies as the two leaders met at the White House.
Peter Pellegrini is the latest central European leader to visit the White House as the U.S. works to curry favor in the region as a counterbalance to Russia and China.
Pellegrini said Trump has been very clear that European nations must do much more on defense, and he stressed that Slovakia is doing just that. Pellegrini said his country is ahead of schedule to increase its defense spending to 2 percent of gross national product.
“By 2022, we will be on that number,” Pellegrini said.
That’s two years faster than a NATO members’ agreement to move toward 2 percent by 2024.
Trump praised Slovakia’s efforts to boost defense spending, saying “you’ve been with us all the way.” He also noted Slovakia’s signing of a contract in December to buy 14 F-16 military jets from Lockheed Martin as it seeks to replace Soviet-era jets.
“It’s a very big order, actually” Trump said. “I’m very impressed.”
Pellegrini said the U.S. and Slovakia are strategic partners. He congratulated Trump on the latest U.S. jobs report and stated that his country has the lowest unemployment in its history.
The April jobs report released Friday showed that the U.S. unemployment rate fell to a five-decade low of 3.6% from 3.8%, though that drop reflected a rise in the number of people who stopped looking for work. The report also showed U.S. employers added 263,000 jobs in April.
“Our economy is raging,” said Trump, who concluded his comments to reporters by saying he would be running on the economy in the 2020 election.
Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.