China and Russia Must Not Be Post-Covid Winners, U.K. Envoy Says


China and Russia must not emerge as the winners from the coronavirus pandemic, Britain’s ambassador to the U.S. said, as she urged the West to show that more open societies thrive.

In an interview with Bloomberg television, Karen Pierce said the U.K. and the U.S. will need to work closely to counter the strategic challenge of China and Russia as the world recovers from the pandemic.

She highlighted the risk that China, in particular, could set the rules for future technological developments in areas such as artificial intelligence, likening it to the spread of nuclear technology in the 1950s.

“We don’t want to wake up one day and find that there’s Chinese standards on things like AI and cyber,” Pierce told Bloomberg TV’s Francine Lacqua on Thursday. That would be “too authoritarian” and new technologies must benefit “open markets,” she added.

“The second big challenge is the strategic competition from Russia and China, particularly China,” Pierce said. “We need to get that right again so that it’s open societies that are seen to thrive and recover from the covid pandemic.”

Pivotal Moment

The ambassador’s intervention comes at a pivotal moment for the so-called special relationship between the U.K.and the U.S., with Britain leaving the European Union’s single market and customs regime and a new administration taking over in Washington.

Boris Johnson and Joe Biden have never met, and their relationship had a tricky start. The president-elect is a known skeptic on Brexit, the policy that has defined the prime minister’s political career so far. Nevertheless, the pair had what Pierce described as a “warm” phone call after Biden’s election victory. She said they will work together well on shared goals including tackling climate change.

The ambassador said the U.K. and the U.S. can finalize a trade deal during 2021, and made an offer to Biden to rewrite the remit for the accord. Talks between London and the Trump administration have been continuing for months, but despite initial hopes for a quick agreement, none was reached.

“We believe this deal can be done -- it can be done in 2021,” Pierce said. It would not take too much time or effort for a deal to make its way through Congress, she added. “We would be delighted to work with the Biden administration if there were particular angles -- some people have mentioned labor, some people have mentioned climate -- that they would like to see included.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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