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Sunday 26 January 2020

Trump finds ‘new friend’ in Italian premier

The president said the US and Italy would pursue a new strategic dialogue on immigration.

Giuseppe Conte and Donald Trump (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Giuseppe Conte and Donald Trump (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

By Ken Thomas, Associated Press

Donald Trump and Italy’s new premier have expressed solidarity on migration issues as they showed signs of a fledgling alliance at a time when the US has strained relations with European leaders.

The US president greeted Italy’s Giuseppe Conte as “my new friend” and said they bonded at the recent G7 meetings in Canada, crediting the prime minister for taking a “firm stance on the border”.

The president said the US and Italy would pursue a new strategic dialogue on security issues, terrorism and immigration.

“We are both outsiders to politics. Can you believe it?” Mr Trump said during a joint news conference with Mr Conte.

Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Giuseppe Conte at the White House (Evan Vucci/AP)

The president said both were “determined to protect the rights and needs and interests and dreams of our citizens and we will do that”.

Italy under Mr Conte’s new government has pushed for the EU 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.

Mr Trump welcomed the prime minister to the White House for the first time since Mr Conte came to power in June, bringing together two outsider leaders who have emerged from populist waves in their countries.

Mr Conte leads the Eurosceptic coalition of the 5-Star Movement, which considers itself anti-establishment, and the right-wing, north-based League party.

Mr Trump last week avoided escalating a trade dispute with the EU and his administration is expected to begin negotiations quickly on avoiding tariffs on cars and removing trade barriers, but it followed tensions between the US and EU over trade and the transatlantic alliance.

During their talks, Mr Trump noted the US trade deficit with Italy, a member of the EU, and said he was certain “we’ll straighten that out pretty quickly”.

Mr Conte said he and his host were leading “governments that represent change, they were chosen by citizens to change the status quo”.

He cited Italy’s “innovative approach” on immigration and expressed support for Mr Trump’s recent talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

PA Media

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