Dutch PM to meet with Trump today; hand over D-Day flag

Mark Rutte, January 2016
Mark Rutte, January 2016Photo: EU2016 NL / Wikimedia Commons

Prime Minister Mark Rutte will meet with United States president Donald Trump in the White House for the second time this evening. During the meeting, Rotterdam collector Bert Kreuk will hand Trump a D-Day flag he is donating to the United States. The main topic on the agenda for Rutte and Trump is trade, though Trump will likely also bring up the U.S. request to allies for a military contribution in Syria and to increase pressure on Iran, NOS reports.

The US recently asked the Netherlands for military support for a new mission in Syria, as well as to send a frigate to the Strait of Hormuz - an important maritime route that has recently been the scene of high tensions between Iran and America. Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld already stated that there is no mandate for the Netherlands to send troops to Syria. But the government still has to make a decision about whether or not to send a frigate to the strait between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, according to the broadcaster. 

These two requests are not explicitly on the agenda for Rutte's visit, but it is expected that Trump will bring it up, according to NOS' American correspondent Marieke de Vries. It is also expected that Rutte will not make any commitments on these points. 

Kreuk will hand over the D-Day flag at 8:15 p.m. Dutch time. The flag was the first American flag to land in Normandy on D-Day on 6 June 1944. It hung on the ship Landing Craft Control 60 of American lieutenant Howard Vander Beek, son of a Dutch immigrant. Kreuk bought it at an auction in 2016 and decided to donate it to the United States. He will personally hand the flag to Trump, after which it will be placed in a museum. 

"A great honor to have been invited to the White House by Donald Trump for the official handover of the leading D-day flag", the Rotterdam businessman said on Twitter. "My donation to the American people."

The meeting with Trump forms part of the Dutch trade mission to Boston. Ministers Stef Blok of Foreign Affairs and Bruno Bruins for Medical Care, as well as 87 Dutch companies accompanied Rutte to the States. Blok will participate in a summit on religious freedom while there, and join Rutte at the White House later. 

The Netherlands and the United States are important trading partners, with the US being the Netherlands' biggest trade partner outside Europe. Last year 33.8 billion euros worth of US products were exported to the Netherlands, and the Netherlands exported 23.8 billion euros worth of products to the US, according to Statistics Netherlands. Like at the previous meeting with Trump, Rutte will likely emphasize the importance of free trade when visiting the White House on Thursday.

The previous meeting between the two heads of state happened shortly after the outbreak of a trade conflict between the US and the EU. Rutte made headlines then when he interrupted the US president when Trump said that not finding a solution to the trade conflict would be "positive also".