U.S. President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak have struck a new economic agreement to strengthen economic ties between their two nations and address the challenges of a “rapidly changing world.”
“Today in Washington, we’ve had important and positive discussions to deepen our bilateral economic relationship and expand our cooperation to shape the challenges and future for the remainder of this century,” Biden said on June 8 at a joint press conference with Sunak at the White House.
Touting the special bond between the United States and the UK as a source of strength, Biden said the new agreement—dubbed the Atlantic Declaration—would “equip our economic partnership for the 21st century.”
“It outlines how we can enhance our cooperation to accelerate the clean energy transition that must take place and is taking place, lead the development of emerging technologies that are going to shape so much of our future, and protect technologies critical to our national security,” he said.
One vital aspect of that plan would be to strengthen critical mineral supply chains to reduce reliance on other countries for materials that are essential to the U.S. economy and national defense, according to Biden.
Sunak, also touching on that threat, said: “Countries like China and Russia are willing to manipulate and exploit our openness, steal our intellectual property, use technology for authoritarian ends, or withdraw crucial resources like energy. They will not succeed. Today, we have agreed [to] the Atlantic Declaration, a new economic partnership for a new age of a kind that has never been agreed before.”
Key actions the two countries will take to bolster their partnership will include collaborating on emerging technologies, controlling outbound investments and exports to countries of concern, partnering to combat sanctions evasion and supply chain crises, and cooperating on artificial intelligence and data concerns.
They'll also work together to establish a critical minerals agreement to help build the “clean energy economy of the future” while strengthening their alliance across defense, health security, and space.
Global ChallengesThe leaders announced the new agreement after a bilateral meeting—their fourth since Sunak took office in October 2022—to discuss the challenges their two countries face, including the war in Ukraine.
“For the first time in over half a century, we face a war on the European continent,” Sunak noted during the meeting. “And as we’ve done before, the U.S. and the UK have stood together to support Ukraine and stand up for the values of democracy and freedom and make sure that they prevail, as I know we will.”
Biden, when asked by reporters whether additional funding for Ukraine is forthcoming, said he believes that the United States will continue to provide aid for “as long as it takes,” despite resistance on Capitol Hill.
Following up on those comments, Sunak said he thought it was “totally reasonable” for U.S. citizens to expect other countries to help shoulder the burden of support for Ukraine.
“The UK is proud to be behind the U.S., the biggest contributor to the military effort in Ukraine,” he said. “And I think it’s right that other countries also step up and do their part.
NATO’s Next Chief?The question of who will take the helm of NATO this year was also on the agenda of the meeting between Biden and Sunak.
Sunak made it clear before his trip to Washington that he wanted the United States and other NATO allies to back his defense secretary, Ben Wallace, as the next leader of the alliance.
During the joint press conference, Biden responded “maybe” when a British journalist questioned whether it was time for a British NATO Secretary General.
“That remains to be seen," he said. "We’re going to have to get a consensus within NATO to see that happen. They have a candidate who is a very qualified individual. We’re going to have a lot of discussion between us and NATO to determine what the outcome of that will be.”
Sunak, during his meeting at the White House, was expected to lobby Biden to support Wallace’s nomination.
“Ben does a fantastic job. He is a great defense secretary,” Sunak told reporters early this week.
“Ben is widely respected among his colleagues around the world. We’re one of the only countries that participates in every single NATO operation. We are widely perceived as a thought leader in NATO.”
Wallace, a former British Army captain, is widely regarded as a leading contender to succeed Jens Stoltenberg as NATO secretary general in October.
Other possible candidates include Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Mette Frederiksen, the current Danish prime minister, has also emerged as a serious contender. But during her meeting with Biden at the White House on June 5, Frederiksen told reporters that she wasn't seeking NATO’s top job.
‘Indispensable’ AllianceDespite the various challenges Biden and Sunak addressed in their meeting on June 8, Biden told reporters that the unique relationship between the United States and the UK is in “real good shape.”
Echoing that sentiment, Sunak said he was “confident” that the strength of the special relationship wouldn't change.
“Our alliance is so strong because it is not abstract; it is rooted in our people,” he said. “And it’s never been about our history alone, but about our ability to grasp the future.
“We share the same beliefs, pursue the same purpose, and act according to the same ideals. And that’s why today, as we meet the challenges of our time, we can depend on each other with absolute conviction. When the United States and the United Kingdom stand together, the world is a safer, better, and more prosperous place, and that’s why ours is the indispensable alliance.”