Australia

Malcolm Turnbull leading mega-delegation to US

Malcolm Turnbull will talk North Korea and business tax cuts with Donald Trump in Washington. Source: AAP

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is on his way to meet President Donald Trump at the White House, along with a delegation of state premiers and business leaders.

Malcolm Turnbull and four state premiers are leading Australia's most significant delegation ever to visit the United States to build trade connections with US governors.

The prime minister, who left Sydney on Wednesday afternoon, has lined up a series of high-level meetings with top US officials, as well as a visit to the White House with President Donald Trump.

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo says ambassador Joe Hockey had done the hard yards to get the National Governors' Association to focus on Australia this year.

"All governors of all the states come together in the United States to talk about their pathway forward, to build linkages... we'll put a strong focus on our trade and investment relationship," Mr Ciobo said on Wednesday.

The Australian embassy described it as "the largest and most significant delegation of Australian government and business leaders ever to visit the United States".

Mr Turnbull will give the keynote address at the association's winter meeting.

The prime minister, premiers Gladys Berejiklian, Annastacia Palaszczuk, Daniel Andrews, Mark McGowan and chief ministers Andrew Barr and Michael Gunner will also host US state governors at the Australian embassy.

Mr Turnbull is expected to address the threat North Korea poses the Asian region when he attends several meetings, including a sit-down at the Pentagon.

The president's pick for US Ambassador to Australia, Admiral Harry Harris, last week spoke about the belief North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons is aimed at blackmailing South Korea into reunifying into a single Communist nation.

Mr Turnbull will also talk about business tax cuts, which President Trump was able to pass but the prime minister has so far been unable to deliver.

But there will be no discussion about gun control following the latest US school shooting, or the Obama-era refugee swap deal that angered Mr Trump when he spoke to Mr Turnbull in 2017.

The US is looking at a "quad" Indo-Pacific security alliance with Australia, Japan and India, which Australia is also open to, while Mr Trump's softening stance on the Trans Pacific Partnership may open up opportunities for the Australian delegation.

Acting prime minister Mathias Cormann joked earlier about him taking on the role instead of the embattled deputy prime minister or Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who is overseas.

"I could get used to it," Senator Cormann said.

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