US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Thursday announced a new agreement to bolster economic ties in response to China’s growing influence, while pledging to accelerate the clean energy transition and strengthen critical mineral supply chains.
The two leaders also discussed their “unwavering support for the people in Ukraine”, Mr Biden told reporters at a joint news conference with Mr Sunak.
The Atlantic Declaration, announced as the two leaders met in the White House on Thursday, includes commitments on easing trade barriers, closer defence industry ties and a data protection deal.
It will also allow the UK to benefit from some US tax credits if Britain processes minerals that are essential for the production of electric cars.
Although the agreement falls short of a full-blown free trade deal, something Mr Sunak's Conservative Party has sought as a way to make up for the impact of leaving the EU, the Prime Minister argued the targeted approach is a better response to the economic challenges posed by Beijing and Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
“Our agreement today focuses on the particular challenges and opportunities of the moment we're in,” he said. “I think that's the right thing for us both to be focused on.”
Mr Sunak presented the declaration as “a test case for the kind of reimagined alliances that President Biden has spoken so eloquently about”.
For his part, Mr Biden said he and Mr Sunak had a “really good discussion today about our economic relationship”.
In what has become a rite of passage for every British prime minister in recent history, Mr Sunak was eager to show how close he is to the US president, referring to Mr Biden as “Joe” five times during the 40-minute press conference and describing how their respective spouses are taking spin classes together.
Mr Biden appeared cordial, and referred to “Rishi” once, but with the UK no longer at the heart of European power, Mr Sunak acknowledged scepticism of Britain's remaining clout on the world stage.
“I know some people have wondered what kind of partner Britain would be after we left the EU,” Mr Sunak said.
“I'd say judge us by our actions. We're committed to our values as ever, as reliable and ally, as ever, as attractive investment destination as ever.”
Mr Biden praised the close relationship, which he said was based on their shared military history.
“That's the unshakeable foundation of this special relationship – and it is a special relationship,” Mr Biden said.
“There's no country closer to us than Great Britain today as Nato allies, partners in innovation as friends and a shared vision of the future”.
Their meeting comes as western officials try to ascertain whether Russia was responsible for the destruction of the Kakhovka dam in Ukraine, which has displaced thousands and caused major economic and environmental damage. Ukraine and Russia have traded blame for the dam's destruction.
“It's daunting to think if the conversations that our predecessors had in this room, when they had to speak of wars that they fought together, peace won together,” Mr Sunak told Mr Biden in the Oval Office.
“Again, for the first time in over half a century, we face a war on the European continent, and as we've done before, the US and the UK have stood together to support Ukraine.”
Mr Biden and Mr Sunak last met in Hiroshima, Japan, at the G7 summit last month.
The British leader visited the US Capitol on Wednesday, where he met Republican and Democratic congressional leaders.