Trump welcomes Italy’s Conte to White House

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President Donald Trump, left, and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, right, pose for a photo as Conte arrives at the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 30, 2018. (AP)
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US President Donald Trump and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte shake hands during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, July 30, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 30 July 2018
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Trump welcomes Italy’s Conte to White House

  • Trump praises Italy's new premier for his handling of immigration issues, saying other European countries should follow Italy's lead
  • Conte thanks Trump for his ‘warm hospitality’, Trump tells him ‘you’ll always be treated warmly’

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump hosted Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at the White House Monday, welcoming to a European populist with like-minded views on immigration and trade.
The visit began with a handshake and a smile from Conte at the West Wing portico.
Trump said in the Oval Office that it was a “great honor” to host Conte, and praised the Italian leader for doing a “fantastic job,” noting they met and became friendly at the recent G7 summit in Canada.
The two leaders were scheduled to hold a one-on-one Oval Office meeting and more extensive bilateral discussions before facing the media at 2:00 p.m. (1800 GMT).
Conte has “taken a very firm stance” on immigration, said Trump, who has pursued a “zero tolerance” policy at the US border, a crackdown that led to hundreds of children being separated from parents who crossed into the country from Mexico without papers.
Conte was chosen to lead the Italian government by the leaders of parties that won elections in March: the euro-skeptic Five Star Movement and the far-right League party.
The Italian press has suggested the White House meeting will serve to boost Conte, who is often overshadowed by his deputy prime ministers and those parties’ exuberant leaders: Matteo Salvini of the League party, and Luigi Di Maio of the Five Star Movement.
Salvini however stole some of the attention Sunday by posting a controversial message on Facebook — “many enemies, much honor” — that echoed a well-known saying by Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini on the anniversary of the latter’s birthday.
Conte is on a drive to reform European Union regulations that say asylum requests should be the responsibility of a single member country, usually the one where the refugee first arrived.
Italy argues that the law places an unfair burden on countries that border the Mediterranean, and its new populist government has stepped up pressure on other EU countries to share responsibility for arriving refugees.
It has closed Italy’s ports to migrants and turned back several ships carrying refugees rescued at sea, threatening the future of those operations.
Both Trump and Conte also favor better relations with Russia.
Already deeply at odds with US allies on trade, the environment and Iran, the US leader opened another front in Canada by calling for Russia to be brought back into G7 meetings, ending its isolation over its 2014 annexation of Crimea.
“I think it would be good for Russia, I think it would be good for the United States, I think it would be good for all of the countries of the current G7,” Trump said.
Conte, who was making his international debut at the Group of Seven talks, said he agreed with Trump, setting himself apart from his European colleagues.
The two men also share the same skepticism when it comes to free trade: Trump has blasted several international pacts such as NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), while Conte refused to ratify the CETA free trade agreement between the EU and Canada.
But according to Nick Ottens of the Atlantic Council, Trump “may not find the ally he expects” in Conte.
On trade, the new Italian government’s skepticism of multinational agreements could complicate Trump’s desire to see all EU customs tariffs eliminated, according to Ottens.
Meanwhile, in the defense realm, Italy has said it has no chance of reaching the target spending of two percent of GDP — let alone Trump’s stated goal at the latest NATO summit of four percent.
In early July, Italy’s defense minister Elisabetta Trenta announced a freeze on purchasing F-35 fighter aircraft, of which the US is the primary contractor.
Italy’s participation in NATO operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria will be on both leaders’ agendas, along with Italy’s diplomatic efforts in Libya.
But a certain point of disagreement will be Trump’s standoff with Iran — and the sanctions that hurt Italian-Iranian commercial relations.


‘No-deal’ Brexit would hit trucks, airlines and pet owners — govt papers

Updated 25 September 2018
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‘No-deal’ Brexit would hit trucks, airlines and pet owners — govt papers

  • Many business chiefs and investors fear politics could scupper an agreement
  • Without a deal, the UK would move to customs arrangements set by the WTO for external states with no preferential deals

LONDON: Leaving the European Union without a proper divorce deal could ground airlines, stop hauliers from lugging goods to the world’s biggest trading bloc and even make headaches for pet owners who want to take their dogs on holiday, according to government documents.
With just six months to go until the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU on March 29, Prime Minister Theresa May has warned that negotiations are at an impasse and that the EU must come up with new proposals on how to craft a divorce settlement.
Many business chiefs and investors fear politics could scupper an agreement, thrusting the world’s fifth largest economy into a “no-deal” Brexit that they say would spook financial markets and silt up the arteries of trade.
Britain, which has warned it could leave without a deal, published 25 technical notices on Monday covering everything from commercial road haulage and buying timber to airline regulations and taking pets abroad.
“If the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 with no agreement in place, UK and EU licensed airlines would lose the automatic right to operate air services between the UK and the EU without seeking advance permission,” the government said.
Overall, the government has published more than 65 such notices giving a glimpse of what a no-deal Brexit — the nightmare scenario for chief executives of most multinationals operating in Britain — would look like.
Amid warnings that trucks could stack up on both sides of the English Channel in the confusion of a no deal, Britain said it would seek to strike bilateral agreements with European countries to ensure hauliers would retain access.
The notices covered a vast swathe of the British economy, warning, for example, that labels on packaged food would have to be changed.
“Use of the term ‘EU’ in origin labelling would no longer be correct for food or ingredients from the UK,” the government said.
Honey producers would have to change their labels while EU countries might not accept British mineral water, the government said.
In the worse case scenario for pet owners, dogs, cats and even ferrets might need health certificates and rabies jabs. Travel plans would have to be discussed with a vet at least four months in advance before traveling to the EU.
That would mean someone wanting to take their pet to the EU on March 30, 2019, the day after Britain leaves the bloc, would have to discuss the trip with a vet before the end of November.
Without a deal, the UK would move from seamless trade with the rest of the EU to customs arrangements set by the World Trade Organization for external states with no preferential deals.
Brexiteers accept there is likely to be some short-term economic pain but say the government is trying to scare voters about the impact of a no-deal Brexit.
Britain, many Brexiteers say, will thrive in the longer term if cut loose from what they see as a doomed experiment in German-dominated unity and excessive debt-funded welfare spending.