Your Title

WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was set Thursday for White House talks with President Joe Biden armed with reminders of UK ambitions on artificial intelligence and Ukraine -- and a reminder also of Biden's British roots.

While intensely proud of his Irish-American heritage, Biden also acknowledges forebears from England -- including a 19th-century sailor who was his great-great-grandfather.

Sunak’s spokesman said that the prime minister would present a copy of Christopher Biden’s book “Naval Discipline: Subordination Contrasted with Insubordination” -- which the president, visiting Ireland in April, described as the Royal Navy’s guide to combatting mutiny.

In the Oval Office, Sunak will also gift to Biden a personalized Barbour jacket made near his northern English constituency, embroidered with the words “Mr President” on a front pocket.

This follows a rich tradition of summit gift-giving by US-UK leaders -- although Downing Street will be hoping that this time plays better than when Barack Obama received Gordon Brown in 2009.

Brown brought an ornamental pen holder made from the timbers of a Victorian anti-slave ship. In return, Obama gave a bag of DVDs -- which were encoded to play only on North American machines.

Sunak is staying at Blair House, the presidential guest residence very close to the White House, and will give a joint press conference with Biden -- VIP treatment that few visiting dignitaries get.

Sunak has trimmed British sails to align with US policy winds on today's challenges including China, while touting a post-Brexit leadership role on artificial intelligence.

He plans to host the world's first AI summit in the autumn, vowing to craft a coordinated approach to harness its potential in areas such as medicine while averting doomsday scenarios of sentient computers wiping out humanity.

“Time and time again throughout history we have invented paradigm-shifting new technologies and we have harnessed them for the good of humanity,“ Sunak said ahead of the White House summit.

“That is what we must do again.”

Yet there are already headwinds for Britain's putative role in AI regulation, given that the United States and European Union have already begun their own dialogue on a code of conduct.

On Ukraine, there is likely to be smoother sailing out of the summit with both the US and UK governments moving closer to offering air support to Kyiv to counter Russia's invasion.

Both have said it is too soon to blame Russia for the partial destruction of a Ukrainian dam this week -- but both are clear that Moscow's aggression must be thwarted.

While giving up hope for now on a post-Brexit trade deal with the United States, Sunak headed into Thursday's summit arguing that the invasion proves the need for transatlantic economic alignment.

“Just as interoperability between our militaries has given us a battlefield advantage over our adversaries, greater economic interoperability will give us a crucial edge in the decades ahead,“ he said.

Sunak is pushing for US relief to UK carmakers, via greater access to critical minerals used in batteries, after Biden's Inflation Reduction Act offered vast subsidies to companies with US operations.

Sunak has also been talking up British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace as a candidate to lead NATO before the Western military alliance holds a summit next month in Lithuania, with the prime ministers of Denmark and Estonia also seen as contenders.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg's term in the job is due to end in October.

On Wednesday evening Sunak took in a baseball game between the Washington Nationals and Arizona Diamondbacks, and politely declined the chance to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

After the UK and US anthems were played by a military band, Sunak said to Nats manager Dave Martinez: “They should put a (cricket) bat in my hand.

“That’s more my thing.” - AFP