Biden hosts Boris Johnson at White House

Two leaders discussed climate change, Afghanistan and the Pacific following snub of France in submarine deal with Australia

US President Joe Biden hosted UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the White House on Tuesday to discuss climate change, the Afghanistan withdrawal and the Pacific following a recent agreement to transfer sensitive nuclear submarine technology to Australia.

Mr Biden said climate change would be the core focus of their talks as both leaders attempt to galvanise countries around the world to set ambitious emissions reductions targets as the UN climate conference in Scotland approaches.

“I’m really anxious to attend in Glasgow in November,” Mr Biden told reporters at the start of the meeting.

“We’re going to discuss the next steps in all of this, as well as how the US and UK can continue our co-operation in Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific and around the world.”

The two leaders met after travelling to Washington from New York, where Mr Johnson devoted most of his speech at the UN General Assembly earlier in the day to climate change.

He urged developed member states to contribute more financial assistance to lower income countries to help them cope with the effects of global warming and decarbonise their economies.

Climate change is also a priority for the Biden administration, with the US setting an ambitious target to cut carbon emissions in half over 2005 levels by 2030.

Both leaders hope to secure enough emissions reductions pledges to keep global warming below 1.5°C to mitigate some of the worst effects of climate change.

However, Mr Johnson said in advance of the talks that he would not address a key British priority with the US: a free trade agreement following Brexit.

“The reality is that Joe has a lot of fish to fry,” Mr Johnson told reporters before the meeting.

However, Mr Johnson touted the fact that the Biden administration has dropped tariffs on UK products that had been instated under former president Donald Trump’s trade war with Europe.

“The ban has been lifted on British beef and the people of the United States of America are getting rich beef and lamb,” Mr Johnson said at the start of the meeting with Mr Biden.

Despite Mr Biden’s pledge to repair relations with key US allies damaged under former president Donald Trump, the US-UK nuclear submarine deal with Australia has prompted France to withdraw its ambassador from Washington while likening the current president to his predecessor.

French officials were not informed of the agreement - which prompted Australia to cancel a $90 billion submarine contract with France - until they read foreign press reports about the deal the same day that Mr Biden announced the new trilateral defence pact, known as Aukus.

Mr Johnson is scheduled to meet Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison separately in Washington later on Tuesday. Both leaders are expected to meet House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

Mr Biden also met with Mr Morrison on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday before returning to Washington.

The Australian prime minister will meet Mr Biden again when he visits the White House on Friday alongside Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga as part of the quadrilateral security dialogue between the four countries.

Despite increased US diplomatic activity in the Indo-Pacific and the Australian submarine deal, Mr Biden continues to insist that Washington is not pursuing a policy of containment against China.

Updated: September 21st 2021, 10:56 PM