Oct. 16 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Wednesday called on Italy to increase its NATO contributions during a joint press conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella.
Trump said he hoped Italy would increase its spending to 2 percent of its GDP, noting that the country had recently purchased 90 new F-35s, as the two spoke publicly together after holding a bilateral meeting.
"The problem is that Italy is only paying 1.1 percent, instead of the mandated 2 percent, which by and of itself, is a low number," Trump said.
Mattarella noted that Italy is the fifth greatest contributor to NATO and second in terms of troops devoted to NATO missions saying that the alliance is a "pillar" of Italy's international vision.
"Italy has always contributed very intensely to NATO missions and operations and with a great deal of effectiveness and we have substantially supported the activities of the alliance," he said.
Mattarella also expressed hope that his country, the United States and the European Union will be able to foster new cooperation on trade after Trump lamented that the United States' trade deficit with Italy accounts for about 20 percent of its annual trade deficit with the EU.
"We are aiming to define solutions that can strengthen our relationships because commercial trade tensions are to the benefit of no one," he said. "We feel that imposing tariffs on one another mutually is counterproductive and it damages both of our economies."