Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Maurizio Molinari of La Stampa

Washington, DC (STL.News) – The US Department of State released the following statement:

QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, thank you so much for doing this for – with La Stampa.  And the first question is about the WTO decision taken today.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes.

QUESTION: Are we facing the (inaudible) U.S. tariff on Italian goods, and how can we avoid that?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So I’ve seen the results of the decision today.  They – they’re consistent with what we’d anticipated.  We believed all along that the WTO would rule in this way.  We’ll now work through it, what the appropriate response is.  I will certainly talk to the EU and we’ll get to the right outcome.

As I’ve said before, we’ll do our best to accommodate each country, but this was definitely an unfair trading relationship.  Now the WTO has ruled to that effect, and I’m very hopeful that we can get an outcome that works for everyone, that’s consistent with making sure that every American business is treated fairly.

QUESTION: Aside of the tariffs, what are the main topics on the bilateral agenda?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We talked about a lot of things.  I’ve had the chance now to have a meeting with my foreign ministry counterpart as well as the prime minister and the president.  We’re looking forward to President Mattarella’s visit to Washington in a couple of weeks now.   We talked about the fact that you host U.S. forces and do a magnificent job taking care of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.  We talked about the challenges all across the world.  Spent a lot of time talking about Venezuela and the nasty humanitarian crisis that exists there.  We talked about China and the opportunity that China presents to each of our two countries and the risks that it presents to each of our two countries and the world as well.  There are a whole range of issues.

We spent a great deal of time too thinking about terrorism coming out of Libya and what’s the right approach.  How can Italy and the United States, and frankly, all of those countries that are involved in Libya create the conditions where violence can be reduced and a political resolution, which will be how this ultimately ends, can be achieved as quickly and as rapidly as possible.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the 5G, China’s technology, how much is it a danger to the security of the Atlantic alliance? And how can Italy help on that?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So I don’t think it – I don’t think it puts the alliance at risk.  I think that’s overblown.  We think about Chinese technology this way: every piece of information that travels across a network is at risk.  If that network is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, that creates its own unique kinds of risks, and we’ve seen this.  We’ve seen military-civil cooperation inside of China.  We’ve seen the connectivity between Chinese state-owned enterprises and their government.  And what we’re asking each country to do, Italy included, is to make their own sovereign decision about the right approach, but do so with eyes wide open about the potential risks of an ordinary Italian citizen’s data being transmitted across the network that was accessible by the Chinese Communist Party.

I harken back to my days as a cold warrior.  I don’t think any of us would have wanted our information traveling, trafficking across a Soviet network, right.  It’s – we want to make sure that we know that these networks that information passes through are trusted.  And if we can do that, and I’m confident that we can do this together, we will be very successful.

I’m not worried about the alliance between our two nations being broken by this threat.

QUESTION: Speaking about Cold War, is Russia fighting a second Cold War against the West? And is Italy in the trench?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ve been very clear about our view.  We hope there’s real opportunity.  We hope Russia will begin to open up and begin to the do the right things.  We’ve tried to have conversations and dialogue with them.  We think that’s entirely appropriate.  Our President’s made that very clear as well.  But we’ve also been clear, when Russia engages in behavior that is – violates international law or is appropriate, we’ll hold them accountable for that as well.

QUESTION: And do you see the risk of Russian interference in Italian public life?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Almost certainly there’s risk, but I wouldn’t limit it to Russia.  There are many countries who are engaged in activities, that deign to get inside of domestic politics inside of countries.  We all need to be eyes-wide-open.  We need to do intelligence sharing between our countries.  If we get all of those things right, I’m very confident – I’m confident that our countries can protect our values and our democracies, and protect our elections as well.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Mahan Airlines, the Pasdaran airlines, is operating flights in Rome and Milan.  Does this means that Italy is risking sanctions from the U.S. Government?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, we hope the Italian Government will make the decision to discontinue those.  We don’t get out in front of decisions about our sanctions, but America’s made very clear that Mahan Airlines is engaged in activity where it’s supporting the IRGC.  And we hope that the Italian Government will take a look at that, make sure that we have our data and facts right, validate for themselves that they’re comfortable that this information is true, and then make the right decision.

I don’t think there is an Italian leader that wants to support that kind of mayhem and terror that Iran brings to the world.  And to the extent we can demonstrate that Mahan Airlines is a part of that, I am very confident that the Italian Government will make a good decision.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Libya.  We have been watching this war for a long time, and now we have the involvement of Sunni states on both sides.  This is making, I think, much more complicated.  Is there a way out from this?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So it is complicated.  And I think the first step is to get all of us who are on the outside providing arms and weapons systems and munitions and capability to anyone on the ground, that they stop, that we reduce the flow of the tools of violence into the region there in Libya.  I think that’s in the best interest of all the neighboring states – Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt – and certainly for the people of Libya.  And once we do that, once we achieve getting these outside groups to cease providing support, which translated, frankly, is hope – right – that support comes – creates hope for leaders saying I think I can win this thing militarily.  I think the world has come to recognize – indeed, most all of those countries recognize that there will be a political solution in Libya.  It’s what we need to get to.  We need to get there as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: And the last question, Mr. Secretary, is about your Italian heritage.  How much is helping you in your job?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ve always been very proud of my Italian heritage.  It’s something that my father and I talk about often.  He loves talking about his grandpa and his great grandfather who were from this country, and I’m going to get this really neat opportunity to spend a few hours in Pacentro tomorrow, and I’m really looking forward to it.

QUESTION: Thank you so much.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, sir.

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