The British Prime Minister is due to meet members of the US Congress, business leaders and President Biden during a two-day visit.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has kicked off a visit to Washington, DC, where topics including artificial intelligence (AI), the war in Ukraine and transatlantic trade are expected to dominate two days of meetings.
Sunak opened his visit Wednesday by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, just outside Washington, DC, before meeting with congressional leaders. He is due to join US President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday.
During his visit, Sunak said he would stress the UK’s ability to play a leading role in AI regulation.
Outside of the United States, we are probably the number one AI nation among democratic countries. We have the ability to get proper regulation to protect our citizens, he told TalkTV in the UK on Wednesday.
During the interview, he also dismissed the idea that his country’s exit from the European Union in 2020 would jeopardize his ability to take on such a role. For its part, the EU bloc held its own dialogue with the US on creating an AI code of conduct last week.
Sunak instead pointed to his background as Chancellor of the Exchequer, the UK’s finance minister, as evidence that he was at the forefront of the myriad issues raised by AI.
I’ve seen it happen, and I want to make sure we’re well positioned as a country to benefit from it but also be protected from its harms,” he told TalkTV.
Sunaks’ visit comes shortly after the Nova Kakhovka dam in Kherson, Ukraine broke on Tuesday, flooding towns, villages and ecosystems. Ukraine and Russia have swapped accusations over those responsible, alleging possible sabotage, but neither the United States nor the United Kingdom has officially identified a culprit in the incident.
Nonetheless, Sunak said on Wednesday that if British intelligence determined the breakup was the intentional work of Russia, it would represent a new low and appalling barbarism on Russia’s part.
He added, in an interview with ITV News, that Russia has largely pursued a deliberate strategy to target civilian infrastructure.
It’s wrong, it’s barbaric and it’s appalling. This is why we give such support to [Ukraine] and will continue to do so, he said.
Sunak’s efforts to boost trade between the two countries may be most significant during this trip, which he says will one day reflect their longstanding military alliance.
The prospect of a full free trade deal with Washington was once seen by Brexit supporters as a possible economic price for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. But the United States has been reluctant to consider such a move, leaving recent British governments to seek smaller trade deals.
Despite the Biden administrations’ lukewarm response to a free trade deal, Sunak issued a statement earlier this week promoting greater economic collaboration.
Just as interoperability between our armies has given us a battlefield advantage over our adversaries, greater economic interoperability will give us a crucial advantage in the decades to come, Sunak said.
The Prime Minister will also meet separately with US business leaders during his visit. En route to Washington, Sunak announced more than 14 billion pounds ($17 billion) of US corporate investment in Britain, although that figure includes some funds that have already been deployed.
The Sunaks government has also been under pressure to respond after Biden launched $369 billion in grants to spur the development of electric vehicles and other clean technologies in the United States.
The investment has prompted the EU to set out its own industrial plan for the development of electric vehicles, a prospect that could threaten UK manufacturing operations, which are facing higher tariffs.
Sunak said a new US-British alliance would help both countries protect their supply chains and navigate a global economy where new powers are manipulating global markets, withholding crucial resources and trying to establish a stranglehold on the industries that will define our future.
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