Enrico Letta, Italy’s Prime Minister, in Washington Today for Official Visit to White House

The following “Fact Sheet” on U.S.-Italy Cooperation was released by the White House today.

President Barack Obama hosted the President of the Council of Ministers of the Italian Republic Enrico Letta at the White House on October 17, 2013. The visit highlighted the vitality of the relationship between the United States and Italy. The bonds between our two countries are among the strongest tying together the United States and Europe. Discussion focused on our ongoing cooperation in the following areas:

Enrico Letta

Enrico Letta

Partners in Global Security: The United States and Italy are working together to promote peace, rule of law, and freedom worldwide. The United States partners with the more than 5,000 Italian security forces deployed in key international missions around the globe. Italians command the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon and NATO’s Kosovo Force, and they conduct anti-piracy operations off the east African coast. Our partnership with Italy’s Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units has prepared more than 4,500 police unit leaders for UN peacekeeping operations. Italy has the fourth-largest contingent in ISAF in Afghanistan, and its leadership in Herat Province is enabling a smooth transition in the western region of the country. Together with the United States, the United Kingdom, and Turkey, Italy plays a lead role in assisting Libya in its efforts to restore security and build its institutions. Italy hosts more than 30,000 U.S. service members, Department of Defense civilian employees, and their families at bases across Italy. Those bases are instrumental in protecting U.S. personnel and facilities in North Africa, particularly during times of heightened instability.

Strong Economic Ties: Our two countries share a robust trading relationship. The United States is Italy’s third-largest export market, and Italy is the United States’ 15th-largest export market. Italian exports to the United States in 2012 totaled $35.5 billion, a 16.8 percent increase over 2011. Meanwhile, American exports to Italy in 2012 totaled $16.0 billion, a 1.1 percent share of total U.S. exports. Together, the EU and the United States account for nearly half the world’s GDP and 30 percent of world trade, contributing to economic growth and supporting millions of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. Between five and six million U.S. tourists visit Italy each year.

Cultural Exchange and Heritage: Americans and Italians participate in a wide variety of exchange programs. Italy hosts some 30,000 American exchange students each year, many on study abroad programs. Italy is second only to the United Kingdom as a destination for American exchange students. The Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange between Italy and the United States (the Fulbright Commission) is one of the oldest and largest in Europe. Since the Commission was established in 1948, more than 10,000 U.S. and Italian students, teachers, lecturers, and researchers have been awarded Fulbright grants. The Business Exchange and Student Training program brings young managers and entrepreneurs in science and engineering to the United States to pursue academic coursework and training in entrepreneurship. Since 2001, the United States and Italy been have been partners in a bilateral agreement protecting Italy’s cultural property, reducing the incentive for looting of archaeological sites and preventing the illicit trafficking of cultural objects. Our two countries are celebrating 2013 as the “Year of Italian Culture in the United States.” A year-long series of exhibits, conferences, concerts, and symposia is providing the American people with new opportunities to learn about Italian art, culture, and innovation in science, technology, and design.

50 Years of Space Cooperation: In 1962, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Italian Space Commission of the Italian National Council of Research, which led to the launch of one of the earliest satellites ever placed in orbit around the Earth. Today, NASA enjoys robust cooperation through the Italian Space Agency and European Space Agency. In 2013, the United States and Italy celebrated 50 years of cooperation in outer space and signed an agreement to facilitate future U.S.-Italy cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space. NASA considers Italy one of its most important EU partners, and on July 9, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano completed a spacewalk – the first ever for an Italian citizen – at the International Space Station.

Milan Expo 2015: The United States is moving forward with “Friends of the U.S. Pavilion Milano 2015,” our partner in the effort to build the USA Pavilion at the Milan Expo. This group must now raise the necessary private funds to sponsor the USA Pavilion. In partnership with The James Beard Foundation and the International Culinary Center, and in association with the American Chamber of Commerce in Italy, the Friends group will work for a vibrant U.S. presence at the Milan Expo. Its goal is to use state-of-the-art digital media and other novel approaches to showcase American leadership and innovation in global food security, agriculture, and cuisine and lay the seeds for enhanced trade and investment between the United States and Italy in this sector, so important to the cultural heritage of both nations.

White House Meeting Between Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and President Barack Obama

On Friday, February 16, 2013, Italy’s outgoing President Giorgio Napolitano, met with President Barack Obama at the White House.  The following is the official transcript as released by White House and the video of their remarks prior to meeting:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I want to extend the warmest greetings to my good friend, President Napolitano, on a return visit to the White House. I think it’s entirely appropriate the day after Valentine’s Day, since we know that St. Valentine was associated with Italy, that we had a chance to express our love for the Italian people and my high regard for President Napolitano.

He has been an extraordinary leader not just in Italy but also in Europe. We’ve had occasion to meet many times in which we have expressed again and again the importance of the transatlantic relationship, and the deep and abiding friendship and connection and bond between the Italian people and the American people.

And obviously, we have constantly talked about the extraordinary connection that derives from the tradition of Italian-Americans making enormous contributions to the United States. President Napolitano has been so gracious in talking about his memories of the role that America played in liberating Europe and instituting the kinds of democratic practices and traditions that have served both sides of the Atlantic so well for so many years.

I want to thank the people of Italy for their enormous contributions to the NATO Alliance. Italy is one of our biggest contributors in Afghanistan, and makes enormous sacrifices. They welcome and host our troops on Italian soil. The economic bonds between our two countries are very significant. And in all this, President Napolitano has shown himself to be a visionary leader who has helped to guide and steer Europe towards greater unification, but always with a strong transatlantic relationship in mind.

The last point I would make is that President Napolitano has also just been a good personal friend, a tremendous host to my family when they visited Italy. You should know, Mr. President, that one of the few things that my daughters asked me after I was reelected was, does this mean we can go back to Italy again? (Laughter.) So I confirmed to them that any excuse we can find to visit Italy, we shall return hopefully.

And this will give us an opportunity to not only visit but also to talk about some important issues, including the world economy. I announced at the State of the Union this week my interest and intention in pursuing a U.S.-European Union free trade agreement, which I know is something of great interest to the President. I’ll be interested in hearing from him how he anticipates the elections and government formation in Italy and what implications that has for the larger European project. And I’m sure we’ll have a chance to talk about some national security issues as well.


But my main message is to say thank you for your extraordinary service, and I’m so glad that we had an opportunity to visit once again before you move onto even better things — I assume they’re at least having more fun than politics.

PRESIDENT NAPOLITANO: Thank you very much. I don’t need to say how deeply touched I am by the generous appreciation we just had of my long public service in the interest of Italy, of our alliance, of our common goals. And I am grateful to President Obama for inviting me to pay a farewell visit at the White House, and for giving me the opportunity of an exchange of ideas before I complete my presidential mandate.

I am sure that we will be able today to express a common sense of confidence in the future of Italy and of U.S.-Italy relations; more generally speaking, in the future of our joint commitment to advance global peace, democracy, and human rights.

Italy has made remarkable progress in the past 14 months — the Italian government, with parliamentary support of different and even opposite political forces, and with the comprehension of different social groups and of all citizens. While this progress must and will continue and be developed because Italy needs it, Europe needs it, and I think the world as a whole needs it.

The announcement which has been made — just made in Brussels and in Washington was significant because I was impressed by the words we, the leaders of the European Union and of the United States towards a beautiful incipit. And as well, I think that trade — the transatlantic trade and investment partnership, which will be realized — now we are the opening talks — but I am sure about also the conclusion can represent a relevant contribution for promoting a new wave of development of technologic advancement of social justice on both shores of the Atlantic. And I think it can represent even something more. It is to say a new historic stage in relations between Europe and the United States — not only economically, but also from a political and moral point of view.

My conviction is that the effect that a shift has been taking place in the center of gravity of the world development of international relations doesn’t cancel at all the crucial importance of transatlantic alliance, of transatlantic relations. On the contrary — it represents a new stimulus for us to make such a framework of relation more active, more competitive. It is absolutely necessary for a better world to have our common heritage of values and experiences be a decisive factor also in the course of globalization in the next future.

It is the spirit in which I adhere to testify once more my personal friendship and my admiration for President Obama, only deploring that the visit of the President and his family in Rome was so short, and expecting a new visit also in my new capacity. I be in another palace, but I be there to welcome you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: That’s great. Thank you.


Columbus Day 2012 a Proclamation, by the President of the United States of America

Washington, October 5, 2012

As dawn broke over the Atlantic on October 12, 1492, a perilous 10-week journey across an ocean gave way to encounters and events that would dramatically shape the course of history. Today, we recall the courage and the innovative spirit that carried Christopher Columbus and his crew from a Spanish port to North America, and we celebrate our heritage as a people born of many histories and traditions.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

When the explorers laid anchor in the Bahamas, they met indigenous peoples who had inhabited the Western hemisphere for millennia. As we reflect on the tragic burdens tribal communities bore in the years that followed, let us commemorate the many contributions they have made to the American experience, and let us continue to strengthen the ties that bind us today.

In the centuries since that fateful October day in 1492, countless pioneering Americans have summoned the same spirit of discovery that drove Christopher Columbus when he cast off from Palos, Spain, to pursue the unknown. Engineers and entrepreneurs, sailors and scientists, explorers of the physical world and chroniclers of the human spirit — all have worked to broaden our understanding of the time and space we live in and who we are as a people. On this 520th anniversary of Columbus’s expedition to the West, let us press forward with renewed determination toward tomorrow’s new frontiers.

As a native of Genoa, Italy, Christopher Columbus also inspired generations of Italian immigrants to follow in his footsteps. Today, we take time to celebrate the innumerable contributions that generations of Italian Americans have made to our country. Throughout 2013, Italy will also commemorate this rich heritage and the enduring bonds between our countries with the Year of Italian Culture in the United States, which Americans will join in celebrating.

In commemoration of Christopher Columbus’s historic voyage 520 years ago, the Congress, by joint resolution of April 30, 1934, and modified in 1968 (36 U.S.C. 107), as amended, has requested the President proclaim the second Monday of October of each year as “Columbus Day.”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim October 8, 2012, as Columbus Day. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities. I also direct that the flag of the United States be displayed on all public buildings on the appointed day in honor of our diverse history and all who have contributed to shaping this Nation.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifth day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.