WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump endorsed Italy’s handling of immigration issues Monday as he welcomed the country’s new premier to the White House for talks on trade and the military.
Trump said at the start of his meeting with Italy’s Giuseppe Conte that the country’s new populist government “has taken a very firm stance on the border.” The president said other European countries should follow Italy’s lead on migration issues.
“I agree very much what you’re doing with respect to migration, illegal immigration and even legal immigration,” Trump told Conte in the Oval Office.
Italy under Conte’s new government has pushed for the European Union to accept tens of thousands of migrants coming across the Mediterranean Sea every year. The meeting follows a recent standoff over a private aid boat carrying more than 200 people who were rescued at sea. Italy, Malta and France all refused to let the vessel disembark.
The two leaders were addressing reporters later Monday in a joint news conference.
Trump welcomed the prime minister to the White House for the first time since the Italian leader came to power in June, bringing together two outsider leaders who have emerged from populist waves within their countries.
Conte leads the euroskeptic coalition of the 5-Star Movement, which considers itself anti-establishment, and the right-wing, north-based League party.
Trump last week avoided escalating a trade dispute with the European Union and his administration is expected to begin negotiations quickly on avoiding tariffs on automobiles and removing trade barriers.
The U.S. president noted the U.S. trade deficit with Italy, a member of the EU, and said he was certain “we’ll straighten that out pretty quickly.”
The White House has noted that Italy is an important NATO ally and a key partner to U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Conte, in brief remarks, thanked Trump for his “warm hospitality.” Trump told him “you’ll always be treated warmly.”