I have talked about CANZUK, a notion promulgated about two years ago by Dr Andrew Lilico in England, several times since the summer of 2016. My attention comes back to it because I see, in an article in Foreign Affairs, that some African countries are embarking on a “freedom of movement” regime because “the free movement of people … is critical for fostering international business.“
Forget, for a moment, until the footnote at the end, about Dr Lilico’s views ~ which I suspect are to ambitious ~ about military integration,* and focus instead on the idea that the free(er) movement of people creates new prosperity
Is that undeniably true?
I’m not sure but I assert that a fair reading of history says, pretty clearly, that periods of free(er) trade and of free(er) movement of people ~ at least of those who could afford to move ~ equate to periods of increased peace and prosperity. I have argued, before, that there is a virtuous circle wherein free(er) trade leads to increased prosperity which, in turn leads to less appetite for wars (peace) which leads to more free trade, etc. I think that “truth” is well enough recognized that it formed the foundation of the “new world order” established, mainly by the USA, in the late 1940s and 1950s, and it underpins part of China’s current policy matrix. In other words, Andrew Lilico‘s CANZUK idea rests of a good, solid foundation of strategic wisdom.
It seems to me that the next Conservative government should make CANZUK part of its core platform … it should advocate taking the best provisions of the CETA and the revived TPP, to many of which Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand have already agreed, and add (almost) free movement to the mix, and propose adding, initially, Singapore to the mix ~ that’s the + ~ with the possibility of adding, eventually, Malaysia, South Africa and perhaps the Caricom nations and India. The goal should not be to reinvent the commonwealth of anything else … it should be, simply, to increase the prosperity of the members states of the arrangement by freeing both trade in goods and services from harmful tariffs and by allowing people to live and work where their skills and knowledge can produce the greatest good for the greatest number.
Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Singapore are all far, far more alike than they are different in culture, economics, politics and trade. They should be an easier fix than many other working free trade arrangements. Now, of course, this will not be the easiest thing to negotiate: Canada, stupidly, clings to protectionist measures for dairy and egg producers, Australia has draconian visa regulations for everyone except New Zealand, Singapore is very wary of foreign entanglements and so on … but good things are never simple, are they?
We are, according to (mostly) OECD data, talking about an “arrangement” involving 132 million people who have an average annual GDP per capita of something in excess of $(S)45,000 per year ~ that compares, for example, with Germany which has a population of over 80 million and a per capita GDP of $(US)50,000 per year and the USA which has a population of 319 million and an average GDP per capita of almost $60,000 … not quite in the major leagues, perhaps but, still, bigger and better than many other multi-lateral arrangements.
The big advantage to CANZUK+, it seems to me, is that all five economies are quite free and open democratic, capitalist states: the five countries rank between 1st (New Zealand and 13th (Australia) in the most recent Transparency International corruption index. We can trade freely without too much fear of official chicanery and we can allow people with similar values to move about freely without too much fear that they will damage our institutions. But even so, freedom of movement is very likely to be highly restricted, Australia and Singapore, for example, are highly unlikely to agree to anything like “free” entry to their countries, but they may both agree to, for example, treating citizens of the other partners as ‘nationals’ in some instances. A Brit or Canadian, for example, may be able to apply for a job in Singapore and if (s)he is selected to take it without further immigration hassle; ditto for a Singaporean or Canadian who wants to attend one of Australia’s universities … no quite “free” movement but much, much less restricted than is the case today.
We, the whole world but especially the US-led West, must accommodate two phenomena:
- The inexorable rise of China, which we can contain to some, limited degree, by using the established rules-based tools of trade and diplomacy; and
- The decline ~ for now, anyway ~ in the United States’ willingness and capacity to lead.
A ‘block’ of 130+ million people with, probably, the fourth largest GDP in the world (after the EU, China and the USA (with or without NAFTA)) would be a potent force for moderate, secular, democratic capitalism and, therefore, for global peace and prosperity.
Now, this is not going to be an easy sell, especially not in Canada where it will be received with considerable suspicion in Quebec and where it will be considered. by some progressives, as being racist and trying to reinvent the “old, white dominions.” Of course, that’s rubbish. Most of La Francophonie consists of poor, backward, war-torn African countries, and Africa and the Middle East and South-West Asia are decades away from being able to join in any sort of grouping of stable, peaceful, prosperous, democratic trading nations. We need to start with what works … build a stable foundation and then add ‘bricks’ to it as they are ready to both benefit and contribute. CANZUK+ can provide a firm base for an eventual global free(er) trade arrangement.
* But and it’s a BIg BUT: the Canadian Armed Forces are considering removing or at least relaxing the citizenship requirement to aid in recruiting. But the project causes some worry about security issues, and so on. Allowing direct transfers from the other four CANZUK+ nations into every rank, including officer ranks, would be a good start, as would allowing CANZUK+ young people to apply to join the Canadian Forces without regard to their citizenship.