Washington/London, Jan 24 (PTI) Joe Biden conveyed his intention to strengthen the 'special relationship' with the UK in his first call as the US President with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, during which the two leaders re-committed to the NATO alliance and agreed to cooperate on combating climate change and containing the COVID-19 pandemic.
The conversation with Johnson over phone on Saturday was Biden’s third involving a foreign leader since his inauguration on Wednesday, after he spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Friday.
'Great to speak to President Joe Biden this evening. I look forward to deepening the longstanding alliance between our two countries as we drive a green and sustainable recovery from COVID-19,' Johnson said in a tweet.
It seem that a new trade agreement was not on the list of priorities for both sides. While the Downing Street readout of the phone call referred to Johnson reiterating his intention to resolve existing trade issues as soon as possible, the White House communique of the call only referred to 'strengthening the special relationship'.
'The president conveyed his intention to strengthen the special relationship between our countries and revitalise transatlantic ties, underscoring the critical role of NATO to our collective defense and shared values,' the White House said.
'Building on the UK and US’ long history of cooperation in security and defence, the leaders re-committed to the NATO alliance and our shared values in promoting human rights and protecting democracy. They also discussed the benefits of a potential free trade deal between our two countries, and the Prime Minister reiterated his intention to resolve existing trade issues as soon as possible,' a Downing Street spokesperson said.
The UK is keen to conclude a post-Brexit free trade agreement with the US, but the new American administration has been less vocal over this amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
The global health crisis and vaccination programme in both countries and around the world as well as climate change were areas of more mutual agreement, with security and defence through strengthening the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) also high on the agenda – in contrast with former President Donald Trump’s hard ball with the alliance.
During the call, President Biden noted the importance of cooperation, including through multilateral organisations, on shared challenges such as combatting climate change, containing COVID-19, and ensuring global health security, the White House said.
The leaders also discussed the need for coordination on shared foreign policy priorities, including China, Iran, and Russia, it said.
'The Prime Minister warmly welcomed the President’s decision to re-join the Paris Agreement on climate change, as well as the World Health Organisation and the COVAX programme to ensure equitable access for vaccines,” the Downing Street spokesperson said.
On climate change, Johnson is said to have also praised President Biden’s early action on tackling climate change and commitment to reach Net Zero by 2050.
'The leaders looked forward to meeting in person as soon as the circumstances allow, and to working together through the G7, G20 and COP26 this year,” the spokesperson added.
The UK will be hosting the G7 summit in Cornwall in June, which is expected to be Biden’s first visit to the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also due to join the summit for its guest country sessions.
The new White House incumbent is famously anti-Brexit but all early indications are that his views on the UK's exit from the European Union (EU) are unlikely to overshadow US-UK relations in future.
In his call with Mexico’s President, Biden and Obrador agreed to work closely to stem the flow of irregular migration to Mexico and the US, as well as to promote development in the Northern Triangle of Central America.
'The president outlined his plan to reduce migration by addressing its root causes, increasing resettlement capacity and lawful alternative immigration pathways, improving processing at the border to adjudicate requests for asylum, and reversing the previous administration’s draconian immigration policies,” the White House said.
They also recognised the importance of coordination to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, it said. PTI LKJ/AK RHL MRJ MRJ