US Treasury Secretary Pledges Cooperation With UK on Pandemic

January 30, 2021 Updated: January 30, 2021

In her first overseas phone call, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and her UK counterpart discussed co-operating to end the CCP virus pandemic, support a robust economic recovery, and tackle international tax issues.

On her first day on the job after being sworn into office on Jan. 26 as the first female head of the U.S. Treasury, Yellen spoke with UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, according to a U.S. Treasury statement.

Sunak congratulated Yellen on her appointment and reiterated his “commitment to uphold the longstanding ties between the United States and United Kingdom,” according to a statement from the UK government.

Yellen stressed the importance of Washington’s transatlantic partnerships and their shared priorities “to end the pandemic and support a strong global recovery,” and in “fighting inequality.”

Both Yellen and Sunak agreed “that our number one priority continues to be supporting businesses, individuals and families through this crisis,” according to the UK statement.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that England’s third national lockdown will last until at least March 8 as ministers try to bring under control a more contagious CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus strain. Cases of that variant have recently been confirmed in the United States.

The official COVID-19 death toll is currently around 100,000 in the UK, the highest in Europe and one of the highest per capita in the world. A surge in cases came as Johnson started a mass vaccination program to vaccinate 15 million people by mid-February and pledging almost £300 billion ($411 billion) to help the economy.

The relationship between the UK and the new U.S. administration is still evolving in other areas.

U.S. President Joe Biden has not yet formally announced a specific plan to visit the UK on a state visit. However, he will be in the country in the summer when it hosts the G7 summit.

Yellen and Sunak agreed to commit to addressing the tax challenges of “efficiently and equitably taxing the income of multinational firms” and seek “to reach a global solution on tax challenges created by digitalisation of the economy.”

In a call with the German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz on the same day, Yellen pledged active U.S. participation in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) discussions on international taxation to reach a timely agreement.

On Jan. 14, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office under the Trump administration added Austria, Spain, and the UK to a list of countries that discriminate against U.S. digital companies such as Facebook and are inconsistent with international tax principles.

The Trump administration published results of a “Section 301” investigation into countries’ digital taxes, but at the time took no immediate action.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement, “The best outcome would be for countries to come together to find a solution.”

The Biden administration has not indicated whether it will act on the reports but is seeking to engage with allies on a range of economic and trade issues.

Yellen also made a call this week with French Minister of Finance Bruno Le Maire.

Reuters contributed to this report.