Rishi Sunak joined an emergency meeting at the G20 summit in Bali and spoke with Joe Biden after a missile killed two people in Poland and Moscow hit Ukraine with “barbaric” strikes.
The Prime Minister attended the morning roundtable of like-minded leaders convened by the US President, which also included French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Canadian Justin Trudeau.
They pledged to offer their “full support” to Poland’s investigation into the incident, with preliminary assessments by US intelligence later suggesting the missile was fired by Ukrainian forces at an incoming Russian missile.
Mr Sunak then had his first in-person talks with Mr Biden, during which he hailed the US as the UK’s “closest ally”.
The Prime Minister told Mr Biden: “I believe the partnership between our countries is unique and enduring.
“The United States is our closest ally, our greatest trading partner, our closest security partner.
“And I’m glad to see this partnership in action doing good, whether it’s resisting – and I agree with your words – Russia’s barbaric activities in Ukraine, but also fighting change climate change, to stabilize the global economy.”
Downing Street then said the leaders had pointed out that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was “directly responsible for precipitating global economic problems”.
A No 10 spokesperson said: “Leaders agreed on the national and international importance of the strong relationship between the UK and the US, particularly given the difficult economic times the UK is facing. world is currently facing.
“The Prime Minister and President Biden have pointed out that the actions of President Putin and his regime are directly responsible for precipitating global economic problems, including rising inflation. Maintaining international pressure to ensure Putin’s failure in Ukraine is in everyone’s interest.
“The leaders agreed to work together, and with allies, to address the economic consequences of Putin’s brutality. This includes actions to protect the most vulnerable in our countries and around the world, and efforts to secure our long-term energy supply.
Mr Sunak was also due to hold a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, during which he would call for a “frank and constructive relationship” with Beijing while addressing its human rights abuses, Downing Street said.
Mr Sunak has been warned by critics that he could be considered ‘weak’ to ‘drift appeasement with China’, after he appeared to soften his rhetoric to declare the country a ‘systemic challenge’ rather than a “threatens”.
In talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mr Sunak was due to confirm a deal allowing 3,000 young Indian professionals to work in the UK for two years.
The visa deal comes as he tries to finalize a delayed trade deal with India, but it could put him on a collision course with Home Secretary Suella Braverman – who has opposed the relaxation of immigration controls as part of any trade negotiations.
The prime minister used the first session of the two-day Bali summit to condemn Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, which he accused of worsening global economic challenges.
Ahead of his scheduled meeting with Xi, he said none of the issues discussed at the G20 could be resolved without engaging with the world’s second-largest economy.
Speaking to reporters in Bali, the prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “He will be clear on the need for China and the UK to establish a frank and constructive relationship.
“The challenges posed by China are systemic, they are long-term, and it is a country with fundamentally different values from ours.
“China has an authoritarian leadership which, as we have made clear, has attempted to reshape the international order.
“So we are clear-headed about how we approach our relationship with China.”
Mr Sunak would ‘obviously raise the human rights record’ with Mr Xi, Number 10 said, but declined to go into specifics such as whether this would include China’s treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang.
But news of the meeting angered former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who said: ‘I fear that the current Prime Minister, when he meets Xi Jinping, will be perceived as weak for it now seems that we are drifting towards appeasement with China, which is a disaster as it was in the 1930s and as it will be now.
The Prime Minister used his trip to Indonesia to highlight the Indo-Pacific leaning of UK foreign policy.
Together with Mr Modi, he planned to give the green light to the reciprocity scheme allowing Indian graduates aged 18 to 30 to work in the UK from the start of next year.
The UK is still seeking a trade deal with New Delhi, after the government missed a Diwali deadline for striking a deal set by Boris Johnson.
Ms Braverman has been accused of sabotaging negotiations with her controversial remarks about Indians overstaying visas.
Asked about concerns that the young professionals route could lead to more people overstaying their visas, Mr Sunak’s spokesperson said: “Overstaying is illegal and in part of this agreement is facilitating the return of Indian nationals who have no right to be here.”
The Prime Minister said he would discuss the trade deal with his Indian counterpart when they meet, describing it as a “fantastic opportunity” for the UK.
“But I wouldn’t sacrifice quality for speed, and that goes for all trade deals,” he told reporters accompanying him to the G20.
He noted that trade was only part of the relationship as he promised “progress” on “multiple different aspects of policy”.
It echoed remarks he made following scathing criticism of the Australian deal from a former Cabinet minister.
Former environment secretary George Eustice said deals negotiated with Australia and New Zealand included provisions that were not in the UK’s economic interest, with the government giving “a lot too much” to guarantee the post-Brexit agreements.
Asked if he would ratify the Australia deal, Mr Sunak told the BBC on Tuesday: ‘In trade deals there is always a degree of concessions and there are a lot of loose ends. positives in this deal, but it’s fair that we don’t sacrifice quality for speed.
Other one-on-one talks he held on Wednesday, before reports surfaced of the missile landing in Poland, were with his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese and Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
A meeting with Mr Kishida of Japan was canceled as the two leaders attended the emergency session on the incident in Poland.