On March 21-22, 2023, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and the U.K. Secretary of State for International Trade, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, launched the first U.S.-U.K. Dialogues on the Future of Atlantic Trade in Baltimore, Maryland. This meeting represented a significant step toward reinforcing the long-standing relationship between the two nations. Stemming from the announcement of a new ‘Atlantic Charter’ by President Biden and Ex-Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the dialogues serve as a platform to advance mutual international trade priorities rooted in shared values, while fostering innovation and inclusive economic growth.
During the two-day event, Tai, White, and Trevelyan explored the Port of Baltimore and a local technology incubator, Fearless Tech. The dialogue involved roundtable discussions with a diverse range of national and local workers, businesses, and civil society stakeholders. Central to these discussions were strategies to enhance labor rights and environmental protection, fortify supply chain resilience, support a low-carbon transition, and create an environment conducive to SMEs’ export activities. The aim is to ensure the benefits of trade are evenly distributed across both nations.
Under the aegis of this partnership, a significant commitment was made by both countries to re-establish the UK-US SME dialogue, creating a forum for SMEs from both sides of the Atlantic to identify ways to support trade and investment. Another pivotal aspect was harnessing the potential of an open and competitive digital economy, with due safeguards for workers, consumers, and businesses. This ties into the G7’s first-ever set of Digital Trade Principles initiated under the UK presidency, which seeks to digitize paper-based customs and other border agency requirements to reduce bureaucratic red tape.
Simultaneously, a parallel agreement was reached between the U.S. and the U.K. to strengthen cooperation in science and technology. With an intent to create jobs and enhance national security, the partnership will facilitate advancements in research, innovation, commercialization, and the application of technology. This tie-up opens up avenues for cooperation in diverse areas, including defense, security, law enforcement, and intelligence. It aims to ensure technology acts as a force for good globally and reflects the values of liberal democracies, open societies, and open markets.
A key area of focus within this partnership will be the resilience and security of critical supply chains, battery technologies, and emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI). Another significant agenda is improving data accessibility and flow to promote economic growth, public safety, and scientific and technological progress. Efforts are also being channeled to realize the full potential of quantum technologies and develop future technology such as 6G. The intent is to strengthen collaboration on digital technical standards.
This U.S.-UK strategic agreement represents a holistic approach to economic and technological development, touching on areas of commerce, research, and societal impact. In their pursuit of shared values and mutual growth, the two countries are leveraging their shared histories, common language, and compatible legal and political systems to create a collaborative platform that can serve as a model for other international relationships. From expanding small business opportunities to harnessing the power of technology for societal good, the agreement sets the stage for a more cooperative, inclusive, and sustainable future.
This new era of collaboration, however, is not confined to the geographical borders of the two nations, and it carries broad regional implications that are worth examining. The first significant regional implication of the U.S.-UK strategic agreement is its potential to realign trade routes and influence economic trends. The commitment to fortify supply chain resilience comes at a time when the United States and the United Kingdom are looking to rely less on China as an export market or as a source of imports, including inputs for manufacturing. The trade agreement provides an opportunity to redefine the regional supply chain and enhance trade relations not only between the U.S. and the U.K. but also with other nations in the Atlantic region.
The strengthened U.S.-UK relationship could also serve as a counterbalance to the influence of other regional powers. This notion is reinforced by the AUKUS alliance, a strategic defense alliance involving the U.S., U.K., and Australia, which is aimed at addressing the perceived threat posed by the rise of China in the Indo-Pacific region. The strategic agreement between the U.S. and the U.K. complements the objectives of AUKUS, underlining the two countries’ mutual intent to collaborate in maintaining regional peace and stability.
This new Atlantic Charter, embodied by the dialogues and scientific partnership, underlines the two countries’ intent to lead the world in research and development, invest in expertise and capacity, and combat global challenges such as cancer, pandemic preparedness, antimicrobial resistance, and climate change. In its essence, it showcases a shared vision to create a world where technology and trade work in synergy, reflecting democratic values, fostering economic growth, and promoting global well-being. This comprehensive cooperation marks the dawn of a new era in the strategic relationship between the U.S. and the U.K., a partnership that is likely to shape the contours of international trade, technology, and global policy in the years to come.
The writer is an Islamabad based expert of strategic affairs.