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:
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.