With the United Kingdom leaving the European Union for good, a plethora of new diplomatic and economic opportunities have arisen. Having left its commitment to the EU, the United Kingdom now faces a time of great change and policy construction on both the economic and political fronts. Because member of the EU bound to trade agreements as one European collective, now is the first time in several decades that the Brits are able to initiate their own trade alliances with foreign nations.
The next big opportunity for international cooperation is the CANZUK Alliance, an multifaceted alliance connecting the major Commonwealth nations, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. The alliance could encompass free trade, free movement, employment opportunities, as well as reinforced political stability on the international stage. CANZUK nations are all interconnected through the British Commonwealth, meaning that they share a head of state, similar political and economic systems, as well as relatively aligned economic, political, and social interests.
From a different angle though, a CANZUK alliance seems arbitrary and even unrealistic. Any individual or institution involved in international trade is well aware that nations trade based almost solely on geographic convenience, not political or social coordination. The reality is that Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom are about as far away from each other as nations can get, providing a very bleak geographic framework to encourage trade relations.
Trade for most nations revolves majorly around the nearest economic powerhouse, and for Australia and New Zealand, it’s no different. Despite the fact that the two nations are so closely related culturally as well as in very close geographic proximity, Australia specifically but also New Zealand have both done vastly more trade with China than they have with each other in recent years. Looking back at the UK’s last few years in the EU, the United States was still the recipient of their most abundant exports, despite having direct access to the European market. Granted, the UK did vastly more trade with the European nations as a collective than they did with the US.
Further, Canada’s trade relationship with the United States serves as the most efficient and envied model around the world. The two countries do more trade than any other two nations on Earth, and this is even despite the two nations often having contrasting political leadership. Some of the best relations between the two North American neighbours in regards to trade were in the times of the Brian Mulroney – Ronald Reagan and Brian Mulroney – George H.W. Bush years during which NAFTA and the Air Quality Agreement were negotiated and implemented. Even the Stephen Harper – Barack Obama years were quite cooperative in terms of joint efforts in mutual security and border coordination, despite diplomatic tension arising out of the Keystone XL pipeline project falling through as well as disputes over Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic.
Despite the political strains in Canadian – American diplomatic and trade relations, there has always been an underlying confidence in the North American support system. Bipartisanship across the continent has proven that these two nations are beyond political squabbles when it comes to stability and furthering the agenda of democracy and freedom.
However, the CANZUK countries have not had such a close and interconnected past, nor do they have a directly correlated future. The United States and Canada make up the major portion of North America, which has served as the epicentre of democracy and the free market system for most of modern history. Additionally, the American market is well established as the largest consumer market in the world. In essence, the United States is the lynchpin of international business and trade.
Connecting the CANZUK nations simply will not have the profound impact on international trade as its main proponents claim. A more effective endeavour though, would be to bring these nations together in coordination with the United States and its global economic supremacy. The CANZUK nations alone frankly don’t have the economic assets to offer any real benefit to each other. Of course the freedom of movement would facilitate higher education opportunities as well as employment opportunities, but these nations already have facilitated immigration and visa policies with each other. The current ideas and cooperative platforms being put forth in support of the alliance are in practice, largely redundant.
The CANZUK organization has flat lined when it comes to innovation and pushing for the best interests of the people of each individual nation, but are instead pushing it with political nostalgia with constant connotations to the British Commonwealth. At the end of the day, if any deal is to be sought between any group of nations, it should be for the betterment and progression of the people and businesses, not for some nostalgic patriotism to an outdated empire. To be successful, CANZUK must be vetted and amended by a range of economic experts as well as politicians from each level in order to ensure that any deal is in the best interest of the people they represent.