US President Joe Biden and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni met at the White House on Thursday to discuss China, Ukraine, and migration. The two leaders agreed on the need to counter China’s unfair trade practices and human rights violations, as well as to cooperate on climate change and global health. They also reaffirmed their commitment to the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, a G7 initiative that seeks to provide an alternative to the BRI.
The meeting took place on Thursday, July 27, 2023, at the White House in Washington, D.C. The other participants in the meeting included Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio. The topics that were discussed included China’s growing influence, the ongoing war in Ukraine, and the migration crisis in Africa. The two leaders agreed to work together to counter China’s unfair trade practices and human rights violations, to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to address the root causes of migration.
China’s influence and Italy’s role in the G7
One of the main topics on the agenda was China’s growing influence and Italy’s role in the Group of 7 (G7) nations, which Italy will chair in 2024. Italy is the only G7 member that has joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a massive infrastructure project that aims to connect Asia, Europe and Africa. The U.S. has been critical of the BRI, saying it poses a threat to global security and democracy.
Biden and Meloni agreed on the need to counter China’s unfair trade practices and human rights violations, as well as to cooperate on climate change and global health. They also reaffirmed their commitment to the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, a G7 initiative that seeks to provide an alternative to the BRI.
Meloni said she was open to having good relations with China without being part of the BRI, and hinted that Italy might not renew its agreement with Beijing when it expires in March 2024. She said Italy would use its G7 presidency to promote a common approach to China among its allies.
Ukraine’s war and NATO’s security
Another key issue that Biden and Meloni discussed was the ongoing war in Ukraine, where Russia-backed separatists have been fighting the government since 2022. The U.S. and its European partners have provided billions of dollars in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, as well as diplomatic support for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
Biden and Meloni expressed their solidarity with Ukraine and condemned Russia’s aggression and violations of international law. They also called for the full implementation of the Minsk agreements, a set of peace accords signed by Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany in 2015.
The two leaders also reaffirmed their strong alliance within NATO, the transatlantic military organization that has been facing challenges from Russia, China and other threats. They pledged to increase their defense spending and capabilities, as well as to enhance their cooperation on cybersecurity, counterterrorism and nuclear deterrence.
Migration crisis and Africa’s development
The third major topic that Biden and Meloni addressed was the migration crisis that has been affecting Italy and other European countries, especially in the Mediterranean region. Italy has been receiving thousands of migrants and refugees who arrive by boat from North Africa, fleeing war, poverty and persecution.
Biden and Meloni agreed on the need to address the root causes of migration, such as instability, violence and underdevelopment in Africa. They also stressed the importance of respecting human rights and international law in managing migration flows, as well as sharing responsibility among countries.
Meloni said Italy would host an international conference on migration in Rome later this year, where she hoped to involve the U.S. and other partners in finding solutions to the crisis. She also said that Africa’s development would be one of the main priorities of Italy’s G7 presidency.
A cordial but cautious relationship
The meeting between Biden and Meloni was cordial but cautious, as the two leaders have different political views and backgrounds. Biden is a liberal Democrat who has championed progressive causes such as abortion rights, LGBTQ rights and social justice. Meloni is a conservative populist who leads a right-wing coalition that opposes immigration, abortion and gay marriage.
Biden used last year’s Italian election results as an occasion to warn fellow liberals about the dangers facing the world’s democracies from rising populism and authoritarianism. Meloni is also expected to meet with Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who has said he could consider an impeachment inquiry into Biden.
A White House spokesperson said that Biden “has a good relationship” with Meloni and that they share common values and interests as allies. Both sides emphasized that the trip was an opportunity to reaffirm a strong partnership between the U.S. and Italy on global issues.