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What does the UK’s Sunak want from Biden?

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak holds a huddle with political journalists on board a government plane as he heads to Washington.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak holds a huddle with political journalists on board a government plane as he heads to Washington.

Reuters

The so-called special US-UK relationship has taken a series of hits in recent years – think Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Brexit – but things appear to have gotten back on track under President Joe Biden and PM Rishi Sunak.


That camaraderie is currently on full display as Sunak landed in Washington, DC, on Wednesday for a two-day visit. He will meet with Biden at the White House on Thursday, after meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate leadership at the US Capitol on Wednesday.

Despite their 40-year age gap, the two men, who sit on different sides of the political middle, are closely aligned on Ukraine, Russia, and China policy.

The ongoing war in Ukraine – particularly the recent breach of a crucial dam in the south – will be top of the agenda when they meet, as well as how to regulate artificial intelligence, with Sunak having emerged as a tough critic of the emerging tech.

The state of bilateral economic ties, perhaps the thorniest topic, will also be a key feature of the summit. Consider that when Biden came to office in 2021, he nixed a larger US-UK trade deal proposed by Trump that the Brits hoped would bolster their shaky post-Brexit economy. (Though a free-trader, Biden has focused on providing subsidies at home to boost US manufacturing with his signature Inflation Reduction Act, which Sunak aides have dismissed as “protectionist.”)

Still, perhaps to tamper expectations, Downing Street says that Sunak won't push for an expansive UK-US free trade agreement this week, knowing that the White House isn’t quite there.

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