(WASHINGTON) — It’ll be an alfresco Rose Garden soirée for Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison as the White House throws its first state dinner in more than a year.
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump are hosting Morrison for a state visit on Friday. There will be a pomp-filled arrival ceremony on the South Lawn and meetings with Trump and his staff, capped by an opulent state dinner beneath the stars in the Rose Garden, just outside the Oval Office.
Australian pro golfer Greg Norman, a friend of Trump’s, told The Associated Press in a text message that he’ll be among the guests.
Rupert Murdoch, the Australian-born founder and owner of the parent company of Fox News Channel, one of Trump’s favored cable news networks, was a guest at the previous White House state dinner for Australia some 13 years ago. Murdoch was expected to show up again on Friday, though his representative did not respond to a request for comment on his plans.
Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri said he’s attending.
The first lady’s office was keeping a lid on key details, such as the three-course menu, the table setting and who’ll provide the after-dinner entertainment, until a media preview set for late Thursday. A White House official not authorized to publicly discuss the first lady’s plans confirmed that dinner would be served in the Rose Garden.
Beyond socializing, the leaders plan talks on military, intelligence and economic issues, especially as they relate to the Indo-Pacific region. They intend to sign a memorandum of understanding to further U.S. and Australia cooperation in space, according to a senior administration official.
Trump and Morrison also will discuss how to ensure a stable market and supply of minerals known as rare earths, which are widely used in electric cars and cellphones, the official said. They will roll out programs for the countries to work together on recycling ocean plastics, which harm marine wildlife and fishing, said the official, who was not authorized to provide details of the meetings and spoke only on condition of anonymity.
Australia last received the high diplomatic honor of a U.S. state visit in 2006, when President George W. Bush feted Prime Minister John Howard.
Trump’s first state visit went to French President Emmanuel Macron last year. Trump and his wife treated Macron and his wife, Brigitte, to a double date at Mount Vernon, the historic home of George Washington, the first U.S. president, on the banks of the Potomac River in northern Virginia.
Norman, a sometime golf partner of Trump’s, had a key role in helping Malcolm Turnbull, Morrison’s predecessor, beat other world leaders to an early telephone call with then-President-elect Trump by slipping Trump’s cellphone number to Australia’s ambassador to the U.S. after the November 2016 presidential election.
AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson and Associated Press writers Deb Riechmann and Laurie Kellman in Washington contributed to this report.