President Trump met with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at the White House today, as the U.S. starts trade talks with the European Union. It was Conte's first visit to the White House since he took office last month. The two leaders held a joint press conference at 2 p.m.

During the press conference Trump praised Conte for his "bold leadership" and stressed the need for stronger border control, going so far as to say he would shut down the government over the issue.

"We have a solemn obligation to protect our citizens and their quality of life," Trump said. "My administration is working hard to pass border security legislation, improve vetting, and establish a merit-based immigration system, which the United States needs very very importantly, very badly."

"If we don't get border security after many many years of talk within the United States I would have no problem doing a shut down,"he added. "It's time we had proper border security. We're the laughing stock of the world."

Trump thanked the Italians for being partners in the fight against terrorism and also said that there has been "tremendous success" in the effort to defeat ISIS.

Trump and EU officials averted escalating a trade dispute last week and are expected to start negotiations aimed at avoiding tariffs on automobiles and removing trade barriers.

"We are working closely with our European partners, including Italy to ensure fair and reciprocal trade," Trump said. "Now is the perfect time to expand commerce between the United States and Italy."

"Likewise, I recommend investment in Italy," he said, adding that "it's a great place with great people."

"We are both outsiders to politics," Trump said turning to Conte. "Can you believe it?"

Conte thanked the president in English before turning to speak in Italian where he said that both he and Trump are working to follow through on campaign promises by "proving that change is possible."

"As far as Russia is concerned, Italy is favorable to a dialogue with Russia," Conte said. "Italy also considers that the dialogue between the United States and Russia is fundamental so that we can have positive results and a more global perspective for stability and security.

Conte leads the euroskeptic coalition of the 5-Star Movement, which considers itself anti-establishment, and the right-wing, north-based League party.

Trump and Conte have complimented each other in the past. On June 9, after meeting Conte at the G7 summit — which was otherwise notable for friction between Trump and other G7 leaders — Trump tweeted, "Just met the new Prime Minister of Italy, @GiuseppeConteIT, a really great guy. He will be honored in Washington, at the @WhiteHouse, shortly. He will do a great job - the people of Italy got it right!"

Conte, for his part, has said he agrees with Trump that Russia should return to the G7. "It's in everyone's interest," he tweeted on June 8. He also thanked Trump after his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, tweeting on June 12, "Today is a historic day for peace and security in the world. Thank you President @realDonaldTrump."

The White House has noted that Italy is an important NATO ally and a key partner to U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.