Brexit and CANZUK

John Ibbitson, writing in the Globe and Mail, says that “After all these years, after all that history, everything will be reversed. The United Kingdom will look to Canada, its former colony, for validation after Britain leaves the European Union … [of course, he adds, that is] … Assuming the chaotic mess at Westminster somehow resolves itself, and Brexit actually occurs next March 29, the first free-trade agreement the British sign outside the EU could be with Canada, reversing the relationship between the mother country and her former dominion … [and] … Of course, we don’t know whether the tentative agreement that Theresa May’s Conservative government struck with EU negotiators will survive. We don’t know whether the government itself will survive, whether there will be an election or another referendum, or some combination of the above. This is a situation in which people talk with a straight face about “a backstop to the backstop” … [but, he says, and I agree] … one way or another, Brexit is more likely to happen than not happen. And if it happens, Britain will be desperate to sign as many trade agreements as possible, as quickly as possible, to justify the divorce. The first of those agreements could be with Canada.

There are good reasons why Canada should be the first post-Brexit trade partner for the UK, as Mr Ibitson explains when he says that “There’s a good reason for a quick deal, beyond the fact that it makes sense for the world’s fifth largest economy (theirs) to have a trade agreement with the 10th (ours). The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union passed its first anniversary in September. A Canada-U.K. agreement would require no more than tweaking a few CETA clauses … [and] … A quick deal with Canada would demonstrate that Britain is willing and able to re-establish its trading relationships outside the EU with a minimum of disruption.

While Canada may be the first, after the EU, to sign a post Brexit trade deal with the UK, it will not be the last. The Guardian reported, just last month, that “Japan’s prime minister, Shinzō Abe, has said Britain would be welcomed into the Pacific free trade pact “with open arms” after it leaves the European Union … [and] … Abe, a key architect of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), is attempting to bolster the 11-nation agreement after Donald Trump took the US out of the deal on his first day in office, calling it “a potential disaster for our country”.” If that happens then all four CANZUK countries (Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom) would be members of a free(er) trade pact and that would make it much easier to negotiate a better, deeper trade based alliance.

John Ibbitson says that “Now, Britain is about to reintroduce itself onto the world stage as an independently trading nation. Canada is among the freest trading countries on earth, having forged agreements with the United States and Mexico (NAFTA), the European Union (CETA) and the 11 other nations of the new Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). There has also been incremental progress at increasing trade with China, though a comprehensive agreement isn’t in the cards any time soon … [and] … this week, Mr. Trudeau pitched a new trade agreement with the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.” Mr Ibbitosn says, as an aside, and I agree that “The better route would be for those members of ASEAN that are not part of the TPP to join it.” Even better still would be for ASEAN and the RCEP, which includes China and India to join the TPP making it the world’s biggest and best trading arrangement.

Notwithstanding former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s concerns in his new book, ‘Right Here, Right Now,’ that globalization and free trade have done real, measurable harm to North Americans in the working and middle classes, Canada has no real alternative to being a global free(er) trader … no alternative except being an American colony. Canada needs to sell its manufactured goods and services and its abundant natural resources ~ oil and natural gas and potash, wood and metals ~ and its agricultural products to the world, at world market prices. That means helping to open new markets by being open for business ourselves. That could be one of those “big ideas” that I think Andrew Scheer needs to sell to Canadians in 2019 in order to convince 10+% of those who come out to vote to switch their vote from the Liberals to the CPC.

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