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20 Jun 2021 1:08
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  •   Home > News > International

    Joe Biden and Boris Johnson update Atlantic Charter in first official meeting

    US President Joe Biden once called British Prime Minister Boris Johnson a "physical and emotional clone" of Donald Trump, but in his first overseas trip as president, the two world leaders smiled and joked as they walked on a beach with their wives.

    US President Joe Biden once called British Prime Minister Boris Johnson a "physical and emotional clone" of Donald Trump, but in his first overseas trip as president, the two smiled and joked as they walked with their wives on an English beach. 

    Striking a warm tone in Cornwall, the two leaders used their first meeting on Thursday to highlight a commitment to strengthening their nations' historic ties while setting aside, at least publicly, their political and personal differences.

    As both couples held hands on their beach walk, US First Lady Jill Biden's black jacket displayed the word "LOVE" embroidered on the upper back — a fashion move that was quickly touted by media as a dig at her predecessor Melania Trump, who wore a jacket with "I Really Don't Care, Do U?" written on the back during a 2018 trip to a Texas border town. 

    Beginning a week of diplomacy across the Atlantic, Mr Biden hopes to use his first overseas trip as president to reassure European allies that the United States had shed the transactional tendencies of Donald Trump's term and is a reliable partner again.

    A firm believer in alliances, Mr Biden stressed the deep bonds with the United Kingdom as a linchpin of his call for Western democracies to compete against rising authoritarian states.

    "We renewed our pledge to defend the enduring democratic values that both of our nations share that are the strong foundation of our partnership," Mr Biden said after the meeting, adding they had "affirmed the special relationship" between their two nations.

    But there are areas of friction. The President staunchly opposed Brexit, Britain's exit from the European Union that Mr Johnson championed, and has expressed great concern over the future of Northern Ireland.

    'Bringing love from America'

    The leaders and their wives met ahead of the commencement of the Group of Seven advanced economies (G7) at Carbis Bay.

    Ms Biden was quick to address her choice of jacket and the message she was trying to send in her comments to reporters.

    "I think that we’re bringing love from America," she said.

    "This is a global conference, and we are trying to bring unity across the globe. And I think it's needed right now, that people feel a sense of unity from all the countries and feel a sense of hope after this year of the pandemic."

    She wore the same jacket more than two years ago during Mr Biden’s presidential campaign.

    After the highly choreographed walk with Ms Biden and the Prime Minister's wife Carrie Johnson, Mr Biden and Mr Johnson began their sit-down by immediately striking a tone of conviviality.

    "I told the Prime Minister we have something in common. We both married way above our station," Mr Biden joked.

    "I'm not going to disagree with you on that," Mr Johnson replied with a laugh, "or indeed on anything else."

    The British government stressed Mr Johnson’s common ground with Mr Biden on climate change, support for international institutions and other issues.

    Mr Johnson described the new US administration as "a breath of fresh air".

    Biden and Johnson sign new Atlantic Charter 

    Reaffirming their nations' longstanding ties, the two men authorised an update of the Atlantic Charter — a declaration signed by British prime minister Winston Churchill and US president Franklin D Roosevelt that set out common goals for the post-World War II world, including freer trade, disarmament and the right of all people to self-determination.

    The new version of the charter looks to the challenge posed by countries like China and Russia with promises to promote free trade, human rights and a rules-based international order, and to counter "those who seek to undermine our alliances and institutions".

    The new charter also took aim at "interference through disinformation" in elections and murky economic practices, charges that the West has levelled at Beijing and Moscow.

    The leaders also promised to build stronger global defences against health threats on the eve of a summit where discussion of the coronavirus pandemic is expected to take centre stage.

    The leaders also announced a new US-UK task force to work on resuming travel between their countries. Most such travel has been banned since March 2020.

    The one-on-one talks lasted about 10 minutes before advisers joined for a larger meeting that lasted about an hour, said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

    The leaders also discussed climate change, the pandemic, creating an infrastructure financing program for developing countries and Afghanistan, and launching a bilateral commission to research and eradicate cancer. 

    But Mr Biden, who is fiercely proud of his Irish roots, has warned that nothing should undermine Northern Ireland’s 1998 Good Friday peace accord.

    After Brexit, a new arrangement was needed for the border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and Ireland, because the European Union requires certain goods to be inspected and others not to be admitted at all.

    Ahead of a June 30 deadline, ongoing negotiations over goods have been contentious and have attracted the attention of the White House.



    © 2021 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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