Brent H. Cameron is a Senior Advisor with Concierge Strategies, and a local councillor in Ontario, Canada. The second edition of his book, “The Case for Commonwealth Free Trade: Options for a new globalization” is available now on Amazon worldwide. He can be found on Twitter at @BrentHCameron
For those who have been passionate about Commonwealth trade – particularly CANZUK coordination – today’s announcement by UK International Trade Minister Liz Truss gives some sense of hope. Granted, it is not the fully comprehensive quadrilateral free trade and free movement agreement many hoped for, but it is something.
Politics and diplomacy are the arts of the possible. They thrive on negotiation and generate compromise as an end product. As such, they often produce results that feel watered down or diminished. To focus on this, however, is to miss the larger point.
This announcement represents the restoration of trade ties that have not existed in nearly five decades. Moreover, they represent an evolution of the relationship – one where Britain meets Australia and New Zealand not as colonies, but as mature sovereign partners. In other words, it will bring the benefits of Empire Preference without the Empire part.
Creating something from nothing is a worthy first step, and energy is better focused on how to build toward CANZUK from these initial tentative steps than to become disappointed for it not going far enough.
This move, if anything, may give impetus to securing the free trade conditions between Canada and the UK, as enjoyed under CETA. The acknowledgment that no extension to Brexit will happen means that the destination for 40 percent of Canada’s EU exports falls out of the treaty in six months time unless something happens in the interim.
While the Trudeau government held the view that a bespoke deal could cover trade with a post-Brexit UK, it is abundantly clear neither country has the time or luxury for talks. Grandfathering CETA terms into a Canada-UK (CANUK) deal was the easiest option. Now it is fast becoming the only option.
A minority Liberal government could easily pass a deal with the support of the main Conservative opposition, whose party enshrined CANZUK in its 2019 election platform, and has been a significant platform for Tory leadership candidate Erin O’Toole. It would pass Parliament easily, just as it would in Westminster.
All those agreements – ANZCERTA, the UK bilaterals with Australia and New Zealand, a CANUK deal, and Canada’s trade with Australia and New Zealand under the TPP – could be harmonized into one comprehensive deal for CANZUK.
The time is right, and the trajectory of events are moving in that direction. All that is needed is the vision and leadership to see it through.
Only then will we move from CANZUK soon to CANZUK now.