Ahead of the G7 meeting in the seaside town of Carbis Bay, in southwestern England’s Cornwall district, US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson threw their support behind a wide-ranging document that sets a path forward to end the global COVID-19 pandemic at a time when the novel coronavirus continues to spread in some of the poorer parts of the world.
Both Biden and Johnson agreed to measures that include deepening trading links, boosting cooperation to prepare for future pandemics and supporting the World Health Organization’s probe into the origins of COVID-19.
Most importantly, the two leaders of the free world agreed on a document, which they’ve dubbed the “Atlantic Charter”, after a joint statement made by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt in 1941, which set out common goals for the post-World War II world that included freer trade, disarmament and the right to self-determination of all people.
“We affirmed the special relationship—that is not said lightly—the special relationship between our people and renewed our commitment to defending the enduring democratic values that both our nations share,” Biden said after meeting Johnson said that the meeting, which lasted more than an hour, was like “a breath of fresh air.”
The two leaders Reaffirming their nations’ longstanding ties, the two men authorized an updated version of the charter, one that looks to the challenge posed by countries like China and Russia with its 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 appears to have been carefully crafted to tackle the Cold War II tensions that are growing between the West, on one side, and authoritarian governments like Russia, China, Turkey and Iran on the other. The Anglo-American agreement takes aim at “interference through disinformation” in elections and questionable economic practices, charges that the West has levelled directly at Beijing and Moscow.
The leaders promised to build stronger global defenses against health threats on the eve of a summit where discussion of the coronavirus pandemic is expected to take center stage.
Since the Second World War, the trans-Atlantic “special relationship” has been sustained by a common language, shared interests, military cooperation and cultural affection.
The US and Britain have also set up a task force aimed at reopening travel between the two close allies, but have not provided a timeline for its implementation. The two sides also pledged to continue trade talks, which are currently stalled, but offered few specifics on timing.
Despite the warm pleasantries between the two leaders, some significant differences remain. Biden opposed Brexit, Britain’s exit from the European Union that Johnson championed, and has expressed great concern over the future of Northern Ireland as a result of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the increasingly embattled 27 member bloc.
A new arrangement was needed after Brexit for the border between Northern Ireland, which remains a constituent part of the United Kingdom, and Ireland.
Biden and Johnson spent the remainder of their first face-to-face meeting as heads of state to discuss climate change, creating an infrastructure financing program for developing countries and Afghanistan and launch a bilateral commission to research and defeat cancer.