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Biden meets Prime Minister Boris Johnson, former Trump ally

President Biden listens during an event Wednesday with US servicemen at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, England. (Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

President Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will agree on a path to reopening US-UK travel when they meet Thursday afternoon, as part of a much larger effort to renew the 80-year-old partnership between their countries.

In a meeting here ahead of the Group of Seven summit that begins on Friday, the two leaders, despite their political and personal differences, plan to highlight new opportunities for collaboration on major global challenges, including climate change, to demonstrate the resilience of the world’s democracies. .

In addition to announcing a new task force to determine how to ease travel restrictions linked to the pandemic, Biden and Johnson also plan to announce new efforts to increase global supplies of coronavirus vaccines, including a US donation. 500 million doses of Pfizer vaccine for 100 underserved countries; and more ambitious commitments to reduce carbon emissions to slow the rate of climate change.

In a gesture steeped in symbolism, they will examine the original Atlantic Charter, the declaration signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1941 which set the American and British goals for the world after the end of the Second World War. They will reaffirm the partnership of their countries by accepting an updated version of the pact emphasizing shared democratic values.

At a time when authoritarianism and nationalism are on the rise, the new charter will define priorities, values ​​and challenges which include the defense of democracy, the reaffirmation of the importance of collective security, the building of a fairer and sustainable global trading system, tackling cyber attacks, tackling climate crises, protecting biodiversity and ending the coronavirus pandemic, an administration official said ahead of the meeting.

“This is not to portend a new cold war,” the official said of the update. “He’s supposed to portend a much more complex world landscape … [with] … new transnational challenges and authoritarian competition. The updated charter, the official continued, “would make it clear what the coming decades of the 21st century can and should look like in terms of common aspirations and values ​​for people around the world.”

Biden and Johnson, the official said, are also expected to agree to a bilateral tech deal to lower barriers for UK tech companies to work with US companies; it could be signed next year. The two leaders will also open a new energy dialogue and pledge to hold a joint summit in the coming months on stepping up efforts to find a cure for cancer.

But the first meeting between these two leaders will not be without a certain awkwardness. This is mostly linked to Brexit and the unresolved issues stemming from the UK’s exit from the European Union late last year – a geopolitical disruption that threatens the Good Friday deal, which is the deal. lasting for the peace in Northern Ireland which was negotiated over two decades ago. largely by American politicians, including Biden.

Biden, who opposed Brexit, will tell Johnson, who came to power supporting him, that the United States expects the peace treaty to be upheld, according to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. It would be up to Biden and Johnson, Sullivan said, to work out the details.

“Whichever way they find it to proceed, it has to fundamentally protect the gains of the Good Friday deal and not jeopardize it,” Sullivan said earlier this week when asked about the message Biden wanted to send. .

Johnson, nicknamed “Britain’s Trump” by the former US president among others, began his rise to power when British voters, to great surprise, narrowly approved the 2016 Brexit referendum he was supporting. Johnson was elected Prime Minister in 2019 and inherited the complex task of bringing Brexit to fruition.

As he seeks to demonstrate his country’s strength and resilience as an independent entity outside the EU, Johnson finds his country perhaps more dependent on the United States. and enhanced security cooperation.

“What we are seeing in a post-Brexit UK is a UK that wants to stay as close to the US as possible on its military posture, especially on technology and cyber capabilities,” he said. said Heather A. Conley, a European. specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

Donald Trump’s defeat, however, has left Johnson with a less compatible personality in the White House – one who speaks proudly of his Irish heritage, for example. During the 2020 campaign, Biden even called Johnson a “physical and emotional clone” of Trump.

Johnson, for his part, recently appeared to bristle with the long-held phrase “special relationship” that has long defined ties between the two countries. He seems motivated more by pragmatism than by the kind of personal affinity between rulers that has at times been a hallmark of the US-UK partnership, dating back to the Roosevelt-Churchill connection.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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