I would like to express my immense gratitude to President Trump for the invitation and for the welcome given to me and the delegation that has accompanied me.
Relations between the United States and Italy are characterized by a deep friendship and common interests, both reinforced by the presence of many Americans of Italian origin in the United States.
Thus I am pleased to be able to conduct the visit in the month of October dedicated, also this year,to the Italian-American heritage.
I would like to draw on the reference that President Trump made to Christopher Columbus, who broadened horizons, acquainting and connecting continents that were unaware of each other. And, judging by the role of America in the world, it would appear that he was right in doing so.
Italy views the United States not only as a vital ally, but also as a country which journeys down theself-same democratic path, with the same shared values of freedom, protection of human rights, respect for minorities, and the State of law.
Italy’s international vision is based on the pillar of the Atlantic Alliance which, over time, has become coherently linked with European integration, of the European Union. These are the two irreplaceable components of our foreign policy and of our path of cooperation.
We are united - United States, Italy, Europe – on account of the history, guiding values, the culture that unites us, the intense human relationships among our fellow citizens.
As President Trump recalled, we spoke of NATO, which is first and foremost a community of values which Italy espouses and which it participates in with great conviction and effectiveness. Italy has always contributed intensely and effectively, to NATO missions and operations, significantly supporting the activities of the Alliance.
Moreover, Italy is not only the second contributor of military personnel in NATO missions, but alsothe fifth NATO contributor. After the United States, Italy is the country that supplies the most military for NATO missions, in addition to the others that Italy carries out under the aegis of the United Nations or in the coalition against terrorism that have been organized and developed in recent years.
It should be noted that in these days six F35s of the Italian air force are keeping watch, patrolling the skies over Iceland for NATO to ensure security and peace.
Italy has consistently reiterated that the transatlantic spirit must be fostered, preserved, forcefully maintained in every sphere, in every existing aspect of the relationship.
In this spirit, we and I hope that the start of the new term of the European Union, of this new five-year period, may be a chance for a renewed collaborative condition in commercial relations between the United States and the European Union.
Our goal is the definition of negotiating solutions which can strengthen our relations. Trade tensions do not benefit anyone. We believe that a mutual imposition of duties is counter-productive and detrimental to both our economies.
I would like to add that we share the United States’ conviction that a reform of the World Trade Organization would make it more efficient and more effective.
We have spoken - as the President recalled - of Syria. We are deeply concerned about Turkey's offensive in the north-east of Syria. In a few days this offensive has already resulted in many victims and many tens of thousands of refugees, displaced persons, and many victims even among civilians.
It is an offensive that also involves a high risk of offering new spaces – unheard-of until a few days ago - to ISIS and its criminal terrorist actions in Syria, in the Middle East, but not only in the Middle East. Also elsewhere, on other continents.
Italy, in line with the position of the European Union, has condemned and condemns Turkey’songoing offensive.
We also talked about Libya, like all the topics addressed, in a spirit of great friendship and great pragmatism.
The current situation on the ground in Libya is a matter of great concern to us. We are convinced that the prolonged violence and military attacks puts the stability of the entire North African regionat risk, increases the terrorist threat, contributes to creating an environment favourable to all types of illicit trafficking and puts the energy production of that country at risk. And above all, it deniesLibyans the chance for reconciliation to which, after so many years, they are fully entitled.
We talked about relations with China. In maintaining an open dialogue with China we intend to actively defend the international order based on certain rules, with the UN at its centre and a free and open trading system based on the principles of the World Trade Organization.
To this regard, we have addressed two topics, first of all safety with regard to new technologies, to 5G. Italy is very aware of the need for national security. It is and will always be.
We have emphasized that it is necessary that there be conditions of actual equality in trade and investments, that non-discriminatory market access be available everywhere, to ensure a good and healthy commercial relationship, and that the intellectual property of economic operators be safeguarded; that there is no undue removal of technology.
We have spoken on all these subjects and others still in a spirit of friendship and profoundcollaboration. And it was once again an auspicious occasion to reaffirm the great friendship that exists between the United States and Italy, and the strong relationship that exists between our countries in the transatlantic context.
For this reason I will to express my deepest gratitude to President Trump for the meeting, for the talks and for his warm welcome.
I look forward to seeing him this afternoon at this profoundly significant meeting. Thank you President.
Question: Did you talk about a digital tax (Amazon and Google)?
President: We have not discussed it and, moreover, there are international forums in which to discuss and find solutions to this significant problem.
Question: As regards Syria, in recent days you had warned Europe about the risks of an overly timid response. In recent days there have been some European countries, including Italy, which have proposed a ban on arms exports to Turkey. In your opinion, is this an adequate way to respond to what is happening, also taking into account that Turkey is and remains a member of the NATO alliance?
President: Yes, Turkey is a member of NATO and this indeed matters significantly. I would like to remind you that at this moment there is an Italian contribution in Turkey because there is an important anti-missile battery that, within NATO, Italy has been maintaining in Turkey for quite some time because it is aware of the problems there.
The Latins said: 'Amicus Plato, sed magis amica veritas'. The truth is more important than my friend. Friendship and alliance relations do not detract from the fact that Turkey's military entry into Syria is a grave error. So we condemned it without hesitation for the reasons I mentioned earlier.
The solution does not lie in the sanctions - which if they continue are inevitable, and that even for what has happened they are inevitable - that the European Union has announced; the solution is to stop military operations and retreat, to eliminate the dangers I previously stated.
Question: What does Europe think of President Trump's decision to withdraw so suddenly from Syria?
President: I have already given my response regarding Syria and I am not here to make judgments about what other countries are doing but to say what the position of my country is. And this is what I stated on Syria, on the unequivocal and unambiguous condemnation of what Turkey has decided to do in recent days.
Question: There appears that there are signs of an overture by Trump regarding taxes, hence a meeting point that you had already requested. Is it now possible to avoid the taxes, and that they come into effect in two days?
President: Regarding the question of the taxes resulting from the World Trade Organization's assessment of the European Union's contributions, I have already said what we believe, and I will repeat it: I believe that in the transatlantic relationship, in the friendship that historically inextricably marks the United States and the European Union, the better way would be to meet to compare positions, search and find - something amply possible - a solution that takes into account the needs of both parties.
The other way is to impose taxes. Today, as a consequence of what the international trade body has decided with regards to Airbus, in six months for what it will decide - as is now certain - regarding the contributions made to Boeing. It will mean chasing of mutual taxes and mutual reactions.
In my opinion it would be advantageous to do it immediately, avoiding to place taxes and create aspiral of conflicts that would damage both economies.