The tripartite group

Boris Johnson first European leader to get call from President Biden

Boris Johnson first European leader to get call from President Biden

Christopher Hope

·4-min read
 
Boris Johnson on the phone - Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street
Boris Johnson on the phone – Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street

Boris Johnson told Joe Biden his arrival in the White House was a “moment of hope in a dark time” as he became the first leader outside North America to speak to the US President.

The Prime Minister is believed to be the third world leader to speak to Mr Biden after his scheduled call was brought forward by two days in what will be seen as a major boost for the special relationship between the UK and US.

Mr Johnson spoke to Mr Biden in a 35 minute phone call from his office at 10 Downing Street. The pair discussed “a very wide range of subjects”, sources said, describing the conversation as “very warm, friendly and wide ranging with agreement on key issues”.

One source said Mr Johnson welcomed the “fantastic initial announcements from the Biden administration and ‘moment of hope’ in a dark time”.

Announcing the phone call on Twitter, Mr Johnson said it was “great to speak to President Joe Biden”.

A Downing Street spokesman said that the pair “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”.

On Saturday night sources in Berlin and Paris confirmed that neither German Chancellor Angela Merkel nor French President Emmanuel Emmanuel Macron had spoken with Mr Biden since Wednesday’s inauguration.

Mr Biden had been expected to start phoning allies across the Atlantic on Monday and the call will be seen as a major post-Brexit boost for Britain and a sign the US president wants to cement the special relationship.

The conversation came after it emerged Mr Biden had removed a bust of Sir Winston Churchill when selecting furnishings from the Oval Office.

British officials had downplayed the significance of this decision, as did the White House and the US embassy in London.

British officials told The Sunday Telegraph it was “likely” Mr Johnson was the first leader outside the Americas to receive a call.

Boris gives a thumbs up - Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street 
Boris gives a thumbs up – Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street

A readout from the White House said: “President Joseph R. Biden spoke today with Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom.

“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 defence and shared values.

“President Biden also noted the importance of cooperation, including through multilateral organisations, on shared challenges such as combating climate change, containing Covid-19, and ensuring global health security.

“He noted his readiness to work closely with Prime Minister Johnson as the United Kingdom hosts the G-7 and United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this year.

“The leaders also discussed the need for coordination on shared foreign policy priorities, including China, Iran, and Russia.”

Boris Johnson speaks to Joe Biden  - Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street 
Boris Johnson speaks to Joe Biden – Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street

A Downing Street spokesman said that the pair “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”.

Mr Biden spoke to Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Friday.

Mr Johnson has sought since the inauguration last week to extend the hand of friendship to the Democrat president after his victory over Donald Trump and said in November: “The US is our most important ally and I look forward to working closely together on our shared priorities from climate change to trade and security.”

The speed of the call to Mr Johnson is a significant improvement on when Donald Trump won the Presidential election in November 2016.

Then Theresa May, Mr Johnson’s predecessor in 10 Downing Street, was a lowly 11th on President Trump’s call list in 2016, behind the leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Japan, India, Turkey, Israel, South Korea, Australia and Ireland.

U.S. urges China to stop pressure against Taiwan

U.S. urges China to stop pressure against Taiwan

Sat, January 23, 2021, 8:09 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department on Saturday urged China to stop pressuring Taiwan, after the island’s defense ministry said Chinese bombers and jets entered the southwestern corner of its air defense identification zone.

“We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected representatives,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Britain joins US in attack on China’s trade subsidies

Britain joins US in attack on China’s trade subsidies

Russell Lynch

·3 min read
 
 
China map with pound signs
China map with pound signs

Britain will court the new administration in Washington by stepping up its attack on the Chinese state’s warping of global markets with subsidies.

Liz Truss, the Trade Secretary, is to push the case for reform of the global trading system in an address to the virtual Davos summit next week and is bidding to join an international alliance to intensify the pressure on the authoritarian state. The US, European Union and Japan hit out at China’s vast system of subsidies a year ago and have pressed for tougher rules against the trade-distorting practices to be imposed by the World Trade Organisation.

The tripartite group is focused on China’s network of subsidies as well as concerns such as “forced technology transfer”, where foreign firms are compelled to partner with local companies to do business in China and often hand over intellectual property.

 

Westminster sources said the UK is pushing to join the trio’s working group to challenge China. “The new Biden administration is obviously interested in working with like-minded democracies so this is all part of that push,” a Westminster source said.

Ms Truss said the UK would aim to “tackle pernicious practices and countries who don’t play by the rules”. She added: “We’re looking to work much more closely with key allies like the EU, US and Japan at the WTO to tackle issues like industrial subsidies, and help lead the creation of new rules in areas like digital and data, services and the environment.”

Trade Secretary Liz Truss - Reuters
Trade Secretary Liz Truss – Reuters

The online summit comes ahead of the WTO’s first ministerial conference for three years, likely to be held in December. China’s subsidies and trade practices have been a running sore for years but flared into a full-blown trade war under former president Donald Trump, who slapped the US’s main ­economic rival with hundreds of ­billions of dollars in tariffs.

The WTO, meanwhile, is rudderless after the US vetoed the consensus candidate for director-general, Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, while its appellate court for handling disputes has been paralysed by a lack of judges.

Sam Lowe, a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, said joining the tripartite group would be “a good way of building bridges with the US and the EU on trade”.

He said: “It’s good for the UK to try and come to a consensus position on these issues; there’s no point in the UK taking its own approach. If the aim is actually to try and change Chinese behaviour and get new commitments from China in these areas, then you need to present a united front.

“China is compliant for the most part with its WTO obligations. The problem is that the existing set of obligations don’t capture the things that China is doing that other countries perceive to be unfair. That’s what the US wants to upgrade and change.”

The manoeuvres come as the UK seeks the prize of a post-Brexit trade deal with the US. Ms Truss will seek talks with Katherine Tai, the US’s new trade representative, but doubts remain whether the deal can be agreed in time to qualify for Washington’s fast-track process for trade agreements, which expires in July.