Europe Politics

I'm lucky I worked with Obama and not Trump, Italy's former prime minister says

Key Points
  • Italy's former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has said he is lucky not to have had to work with U.S. President Donald Trump.
  • Renzi told CNBC that he preferred former President Barack Obama's style of leadership.
  • Renzi was prime minister from 2014 to 2016.
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I'm lucky I worked with Obama and not Trump, former Italian PM says

Italy's former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said he is lucky not to have had to work with President Donald Trump, telling CNBC that he preferred former President Barack Obama's style of leadership.

"I'm a really lucky man because I worked with Barack Obama and not Donald Trump," Renzi, who was Italy's prime minister from early 2014 to late 2016, told CNBC's Hadley Gamble in an exclusive interview Wednesday.

Obama's style involved people and countries, he said, mentioning some "very strong decisions" that were made about the coalition in the Middle East, specifically in Iraq.

"But now with Trump, with a tweet (he announced) 'We've come back from Syria, from Iraq, from Afghanistan' — with a tweet? This is the style? I think it's a problem," Renzi, a member and former leader of the center-left Democratic Party, said.

Renzi's comments on Trump come at a time of tension between the U.S. and Europe as a whole, with Trump threatening to impose import tariffs on European cars. Trump would likely get along with Italy's current populist coalition government, however, which is made up of the right-wing Lega party which campaigned on an anti-immigration manifesto, and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.

"I believe President Trump has to understand the (U.S.'s) relationship with the EU is not in his hands. It's a historical relationship, it's a historical friendship so it's impossible to cancel it with a tweet," he said. A spokesperson for the White House wasn't immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi delivers a speech during a press conference at Palazzo Chigi in Rome on November 28, 2016.
Andreas Solaro | AFP | Getty Images

'Good car with a bad driver'

Remarking on the current government in Italy, which has been in power for just under a year, Renzi said it had created "chaos" in the last 12 months.

The government has already caused waves in Brussels for its euroskeptic stance, 2019 budget plans and most recently, its signing up to China's controversial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Making matters worse, Italy's economy entered a recession in the final three months of 2018 and the government reportedly expects the economy to grow by just 0.1 percent in 2019, down from a 1 percent forecast made in December.

Renzi resigned in late 2016 after he lost a referendum on constitutional reform that he said was designed to bring stability to Italian politics. Commenting on the current coalition and economic situation, he said that economic progress made under his leadership had been undone.

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Italian government has created chaos, former Italian leader says

"Italy is a good economy, with a bad government, it's a good car with a bad driver ... I believe that Italy is a country with a government that has created chaos in the last 12 months," he said.

"I'm really sad for that because with my government for three years we came back from crisis to growth. When I started my experience as prime minister GDP (gross domestic product) growth was -1.7 (percent) after my government and the government of Paolo Gentiloni, we came to growth of 1.5 percent plus. So we created the growth in Italy. What happened?"

China relationship 'crucial'

He noted that the government had "made a lot of mistakes in foreign politics" and said he agreed with French President Emmanuel Macron who has called for a united European approach when it comes to trade with China.

"The relationship with China will be absolutely crucial in the next years on two very important points. First, the European framework and second, the attention about security, particularly the network security, 5G and the internet in general," he said.

"So I think this is a very important question for the future between the EU and China, not only between Italy and China."

Renzi said that Italy had to have a "common strategy as a single market of 500 million people" and that bilateral trade deals between single countries and the U.S. and China lacked credibility.

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Leaders must work for stronger relations with China: Matteo Renzi