"We can count on each other with absolute confidence," he said at a joint press conference, while the latter assured that America had no "closer ally" than the United Kingdom.

An "Atlantic declaration" presented Friday by the two leaders provides for enhanced cooperation in the defense industry, civil nuclear power and the supply of metals essential to the energy transition.

On this last point, Rishi Sunak has obtained from the White House that British industrialists benefit in part from Joe Biden's gigantic subsidy plan, the "Inflation Reduction Act", which unapologetically promotes "made in America".

In terms of defence, the US president promised to open access to the American market to British industrialists in order to boost the development of hypersonic missiles.

The agreement between the two countries, tailored to deal with China and Russia, also covers artificial intelligence, energy security, and the reliability of supply chains.

It bears the mark of the "new Washington consensus", i.e. the economic doctrine of the Biden administration, for which industrial and trade policy must be dictated by considerations of security and sovereignty, breaking with the dogma of free trade.

"Indispensable alliance"

"China and Russia are ready to manipulate, exploit or steal our intellectual property, use technology for authoritarian purposes or deprive us of vital resources such as energy. They won't make it," Rishi Sunak promised.

Joe Biden, for his part, criticized China's major international investment program, the "New Silk Roads", calling it a "debt and confiscation program", which "does not go very far".

The relationship between the two countries is now much more fluid than in the time of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, to hear the exchanges of pleasantries of the two men at the White House.

Rishi Sunak and Joe Biden in the Oval Office, June 8, 2023 in Washington © Brendan Smialowski / AFP

The Prime Minister even considered that it was necessary to speak of an "indispensable alliance" rather than a "special relationship", the term generally used to describe the link between London and Washington.

In the absence of a free trade agreement, Rishi Sunak leaves Washington with some support from the United States for his ambitions to regulate artificial intelligence: "We are counting on (the United Kingdom) to lead the efforts" in favor of regulation at a next summit in the fall, said Joe Biden, stressing that artificial intelligence "has the potential to cause significant damage if it is not controlled".

NATO and Ukraine

The US president has been more cautious about another London project, namely placing British Defence Minister Ben Wallace at the head of NATO.

"Perhaps" that a Briton could take the head of the Atlantic Alliance, envisaged the American president, while the mandate of the current Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, ends in October. He said Ben Wallace was "very qualified" but stressed that "a consensus" would have to be found within NATO.

Joe Biden and Rishi Sunak had already met several times, on the sidelines of international summits or to launch a major military collaboration with Australia, but this reception in Washington is by far their most formal meeting.

Their discussion also unsurprisingly revolved around Ukraine. The United States has repeatedly touted the British commitment to supporting Russia's invasion.

In this regard, the US president, leader of Western support for Kiev, assured that he would have the "necessary funds" to support Ukraine in its war against the Russian invader "as long as it takes", despite the doubts expressed by some Republican parliamentarians.

© 2023 AFP