Nuclear partnership included in US-UK Declaration

13 June 2023

Following a visit to Washington by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for talks with US President Joe Biden an Atlantic Declaration for a US-UK Economic Partnership was announced, widely seen as disappointing by many who had hoped for a US-UK free trade agreement. It is also seen as aiming to mitigate the US Inflation Reduction Act, which negatively impacted UK-US trade.

“Today we have agreed the Atlantic Declaration, a new economic partnership for a new age, of a kind that has never been agreed before,” Sunak said. The lengthy declaration and its accompanying action plan are described as a “new type of innovative partnership” across the full spectrum of economic, technological, commercial and trade relations.

“The transition to the clean energy economies of the future is an opportunity to improve jobs and livelihoods and deepen the resilience of our economies,” it states. “At the same time, the nature of national security is changing. Technology, economics, and national security are more deeply intertwined than ever before. We face new challenges to international stability – from authoritarian states such as Russia and the People’s Republic of China (PRC); disruptive technologies; non-state actors; and transnational challenges like climate change.”

The Declaration covers five broad areas:

  1. Ensuring US-UK leadership in critical and emerging technologies;
  2. Advancing ever closer cooperation on technology protection, economic security toolkits and supply chains;
  3. Partnering on an inclusive and responsible digital transformation;
  4. Building the clean energy economy of the future; and
  5. Strengthening the alliance across defence, health security, and space.

On “building clean energy economy of the future”, it says: “The United States and the United Kingdom are both committed to meeting our goals under the Paris Agreement, building a clean energy economy, strengthening resilient supply chains, and investing in our industrial bases. We share a belief that building a clean energy economy is one of the most significant opportunities to create good jobs with high labour standards. We affirm that bold investment and strategic public funding are necessary to achieve these goals. We are committed to deepening cooperation to develop and strengthen clean energy supply chains, including building diverse, resilient, and secure critical mineral and battery supply chains that reduce unwanted strategic dependencies to meet our defence, economic, energy security, and climate goals”.

It continues: “As we pursue our national strategies, we will work to align our approaches wherever possible to make clean energy technologies more affordable for all nations and help drive a global, just, and secure energy transition for workers and communities that will leave no one behind. We are committed to making the 2020s the decisive decade for climate action, implementing our respective ambitious 2030 nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement, and meeting our 2050 net zero emission goals.”

The section on “Partnering on a Joint Clean Energy Supply Chain Action Plan” announces the launch of a one-year “Joint Clean Energy Supply Chain Action Plan”. It says that through the US-UK Joint Action Group on Energy Security & Affordability (JAG), the US and UK by the end of 2023, will “identify and decide on near-term actions our two countries can take in parallel and together to accelerate the buildout of capacity in our countries and third countries sufficient to meet the clean energy demands of the future”. This will involve conducting “public-private consultations across key clean energy supply chains, including offshore wind and electric vehicle batteries”, and conducting “rapid stress-test exercises across key clean energy supply chains, which could form a model for future work on supply chain resilience”.

The section on “Launching a Civil Nuclear Partnership” announces the launch of “a civil nuclear partnership overseen by senior officials in both governments”. JAG will be mobilised “to set near-term priorities for joint action to encourage the establishment of new infrastructure and end-to-end fuel cycle capabilities by 2030 in both continents, and substantially minimise reliance on Russian fuel, supplies, and services”. It says joint activity and leadership “will support and facilitate the safe, secure, and sustainable international deployment of advanced, peaceful nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors, in accordance with the highest non-proliferation standards and consistent with a 1.5ºC limit on global warming”.

These priorities will form the basis of a Joint Standing Committee on Nuclear Energy Cooperation (JSCNEC), “which is designed to deliver on shared commitments by the end of the year and serve as an enduring bilateral forum to advance shared policy goals across existing engagement mechanisms, including near-term actions identified through the JAG, and facilitate exchanges on new and evolving technical and policy developments regarding nuclear energy”.

A press release from the UK Prime Minister's Office says the Declaration “recognises the close UK-US relationship and establishes a new approach which will allow both countries to move faster and co-operate more deeply”. It “heralds a new era for the thriving economic relationship between the UK and US, and builds on decades of very close cooperation on defence and security. It applies the same principle – that the UK and US will work together in the face of new challenges – to our economic partnership as we long have to our defence alliance”. This “unprecedented bilateral partnership takes a different approach to our economic relationship than we have taken before, recognising that our economies must move with speed and agility to address the challenges we face.”

Sunak said: “The UK and US have always pushed the boundaries of what two countries can achieve together. Over generations we have fought alongside one another, shared intelligence we don’t share with anyone else, and built the strongest investment relationship in world history. So it’s natural that, when faced with the greatest transformation in our economies since the industrial revolution, we would look to each other to build a stronger economic future together.”

He added that negotiations will begin immediately on many aspects of the partnership. Teams from the White House and Downing Street will meet regularly to drive action under the Atlantic Declaration.

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