Biden opens up on transatlantic ties in first call with Boris Johnson

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Joe Biden said he wished to “strengthen the special relationship” with the UK during his first call as US President with Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, emphasizing cooperation on climate change and health, but without any mention of trade.

The conversation with Mr Johnson on Saturday was his third involving a foreign leader since taking office on Wednesday, after speaking with Justin trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, and Andrés Manuel López Obrador, President of Mexico, Friday.

According to a White House account of the appeal with Mr Johnson, Mr Biden “signaled his intention to strengthen the special relationship between our countries and revitalize transatlantic ties” citing the “critical role of NATO “.

Mr. Biden also “noted the importance of cooperation, including through multilateral organizations, on common challenges such as the fight against climate change, the containment of Covid-19 and the guarantee of health security world ”- a deviation from Washington’s unilateral approach to the biggest global problems. under Mr. Trump.

However, the record of the White House appeal does not mention any effort by Mr Biden to advance negotiations on a trade deal with the UK, which began under Mr Trump but have not been finalized. before the change of administration in the United States and are a prime target for the United Kingdom. Throughout his presidential campaign and during the transition, Biden and his aides have said any further trade liberalization will take a back seat to their plans to pump billions of dollars in stimulus and investment into the country. American economy.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday she could not come up with “any timetable” for trade talks with Britain.

“What’s important to the president and also to our national security adviser Jake Sullivan is that everything we do must help advance working families and the American middle class,” she said. declared.

“It certainly includes all trade deals, and that’s part of their purpose and how they would approach it. But . . . at this point, we are working to bring the pandemic under control, to provide economic assistance to the American public, ”she said.

Earlier in the week Janet YellenMr. Biden’s choice for Treasury Secretary added: “President Biden has made it clear that he will not sign any new free trade agreement until the United States invests heavily in American workers and our infrastructure. ”

During the call with Mr Johnson, Mr Biden said he was ready to work with Mr Johnson at the G7 and United Nations climate change conference (COP 26), which are hosted by the United Kingdom. According to the White House statement, Mr Biden and Mr Johnson also discussed their policies towards China, Iran and Russia.

Mr Biden’s call with Mr Johnson came after the UK Prime Minister sought to play down the new US President’s decision to remove Winston Churchill’s bust from the Oval Office, which raised a few eyebrows in the UK , in order to build a relationship with him. .

Mr Biden presented the busts of Martin Luther King Jr, the civil rights icon, and Robert F. Kennedy, the former attorney general, both assassinated in 1968 as he took office, replacing the decor chosen by Mr. Trump.

“The Oval Office is the President’s private office and it is up to the President to decorate it however he wishes,” Johnson’s spokesman said Thursday.

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