Trump Finds a Potential Ally in Italian Prime Minister Conte During White House Visit

July 30, 2018, 8:39 PM UTC

President Trump met with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at the White House Monday, finding common ground on topics like immigration, trade, and NATO. Before their joint press conference, Trump praised Conte for his strict immigration policies in the Oval Office.

“Italy has taken a very firm stance on the border, a stance that few countries have taken,” said Trump, according to CBS News. “Frankly you’re doing the right thing in my opinion.”

His support came in stark contrast to his statements on U.S. immigration policies. During the conference, Trump said “If we don’t get border security after many, many years of talk within the United States I would have no problem doing a shutdown,” reiterating a sentiment from a Twitter post this Sunday. When asked, the president said he’d leave room for negotiation, CNN reports.

In terms of NATO relations, Conte says he supports Trump’s call for more balanced defense spending between member states, despite the fact Italy hasn’t met the suggested spending goal. NPR reports Italy spent around 1.13% of GDP on defense last year, compared to the 2% goal.

“These are absolutely reasonable positions and stances, and I personal take them into great account,” said Conte, according to CNN. “And I will be personally the carrier of the message and I will try to make the others understand his position as well.”

The two leaders, both elected through populist bases, also discussed the U.S. deficit with Italy, which NPR reports is nearly $35 billion. At the press conference, Trump said, “I’m sure we’ll straighten that out pretty quickly.”

On other international matters, Trump said sanctions on Russia will remain “as is.” As for Iran, Trump held a uniquely welcoming stance, saying he’d meet “whenever they want,” with “no preconditions,” CNN reports.

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