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A ‘Special Relationship’ Put to the Test

Why No US-UK Trade Deal?

Having met with King Charles and Prime Minister Sunak earlier today, President Biden left the lingering question: Just how robust is the US-UK alliance really?

President Joe Biden, during a short visit to the UK, asserted the “rock-solid” bond between the United States and its historic ally Britain. Meeting with King Charles and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the president affirmed, “Our relationship is rock-solid. Couldn’t be meeting with a closer friend and a greater ally.” Yet beneath the surface-level diplomacy, a slew of unresolved issues are brewing, casting shadows on this ‘special relationship’.

Scrutinising Biden’s Actions 

Despite the president’s strong rhetoric, his actions signal a different reality. Earlier this year, during a Democratic National Committee Reception in New York, Biden commented that his visit to Ireland was to “make sure the Brits didn’t screw around.” This raises concerns over the extent to which Biden’s Irish connections might be influencing his dealings with the UK. 

To mitigate arising speculations, Amanda Sloat, the special assistant to Biden and the senior director for Europe at the National Security Council, went public in April this year, asserting that Biden is not anti-British. However, the need for such a statement only stokes the flames of doubt.

The Elusive Trade Deal

Perhaps the most prominent illustration of this tension is the lack of a US-UK trade deal. Biden has previously stated, “Any trade deal between the U.S. and the U.K. must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.” This stance, rooted in safeguarding the Good Friday Agreement, throws into sharp relief the apparent contradiction between Biden’s ‘rock-solid’ claim and the lack of substantial progress on the trade front. 

This absence becomes even more glaring when contrasted with the UK’s successful trade agreements with other nations, including Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Norway, and Iceland.

Trade Complexities and Challenges 

Trade agreements, by nature, are intricate, riddled with potential pitfalls and risks. The US-UK deal is no exception, with issues such as antimicrobial resistance, loss of EU market access, nutrition labelling, genetically modified foods, pesticides, and concerns over food safety standards like chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef.

While these challenges are significant, they do not alone explain the ongoing stall in negotiations. One cannot help but question whether the Biden administration’s reluctance to commit to a deal speaks to a deeper reluctance or hesitancy regarding the US-UK relationship.

Signs of a One-Sided Relationship

Events like the case involving a US diplomat’s wife, who fled the UK after being implicated in a fatal traffic accident, add further strain to the ties. Despite repeated requests, the US declined to extradite her, signalling a troubling discrepancy in reciprocity, especially when contrasted with the US’s persistent demands for the extradition of Julian Assange from the UK.

US-UK ‘Special Relationship’: Rhetoric vs Reality in Trade Deal Politics

The Bournemouth Observer, therefore, seeks to challenge the rhetoric of the ‘special relationship’ and examine the evidence at hand. The question isn’t whether there is smoke, but rather, where is the fire? Why no US-UK trade deal if the relationship is indeed so special?

Is the Biden administration so dismissive of the British public that it thinks mere rhetoric and words are enough? In today’s complex and volatile geopolitical climate, actions speak louder than words. Bestowing a free trade agreement upon a ‘best friend’ would be a concrete demonstration of friendship and a testament to the value of the relationship. It begs the question: Why is the administration’s action not matching its rhetoric?

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