National Post (Latest Edition)

Two cheers for CANZUK

- Graeme Thomp­son Na­tional Post Graeme Thomp­son is an Ernest May fel­low in history and pol­icy at the Har­vard Kennedy School’s Belfer Cen­ter for Science and In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs.

A new geopo­lit­i­cal order is tak­ing shape. The globe is rapidly re­align­ing un­der Amer­i­can and Chi­nese spheres of in­flu­ence and the pan­demic has only raised the stakes. How can Canada fi­nally get se­ri­ous about its in­ter­nal sta­bil­ity and ex­ter­nal se­cu­rity so it can ef­fec­tively play a role as a mid­dle power? That is the ques­tion this Na­tional Post series will an­swer. To­day, Graeme Thomp­son on how Canada needs to deepen its ties with small- and medium-sized democ­ra­cies.

The COVID- 19 pan­demic has made it im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore the tec­tonic shifts un­der­way in in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics. Though Amer­i­can uni­lat­er­al­ism, the rise of China and grow­ing au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism around the world pre­dated the pan­demic, the global re­sponse to COVID-19 has high­lighted just how much the world is chang­ing — and not in ways that are favourable to Canada. In the wake of Canada’s failed bid for a tem­po­rary seat on the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Council, and with talk of a new Cold War in the air, it’s time for a hard-headed re­assess­ment of how to de­fend and ad­vance Canada’s in­ter­ests and val­ues abroad.

In this danger­ous and un­cer­tain time, Canada should in­crease its co- oper­a­tion with its clos­est friends and al­lies, even as it reaches out to new part­ners around the world. With the in­ter­na­tional sys­tem in­creas­ingly shaped by great power com­pe­ti­tion, small- and medium- sized democ­ra­cies will need to stick to­gether. In re­cal­i­brat­ing its in­ter­na­tional en­gage­ment, Canada should start by deep­en­ing its for­eign pol­icy col­lab­o­ra­tion with the United King­dom, Aus­tralia and New Zealand.

In­ter­est in closer ties be­tween the so-called “CANZUK” coun­tries has been ap­par­ent among many con­ser­va­tive- lean­ing think- tanks and po­lit­i­cal par­ties in re­cent years. The Con­ser­va­tive Party of Canada has en­dorsed the idea, as has its new leader, Erin O’toole. But it’s also been dis­missed by mostly left-lean­ing crit­ics as a fan­tasy rooted in wrong-headed nos­tal­gia for the Bri­tish Em­pire. As ever, the devil is in the de­tails.

The most rad­i­cal pro­po­nents of CANZUK en­vi­sion a vaguely de­fined union of the four coun­tries, which would com­prise 135 mil­lion peo­ple and con­sti­tute the world’s fourth- largest econ­omy. Echo­ing the failed late-19th cen­tury idea of an “im­pe­rial fed­er­a­tion,” they see a global su­per­power wait­ing to be re­vealed.

Here, the crit­ics are right: this is sim­ply a fan­tasy. Canada, along with Aus­tralia and New Zealand, long ago out­grew its old colo­nial re­la­tion­ship with Bri­tain, and Bri­tish Brex­i­teers who imag­ine that CANZUK can re­place the Euro­pean Union are de­lud­ing them­selves. In­stead of tilt­ing at wind­mills, they should fo­cus on the im­me­di­ate pri­or­i­ties of an or­derly exit from the EU and pre­serv­ing the 313-year-old union of Eng­land and Scot­land.

But the crit­ics doth protest too much. Merely ac­knowl­edg­ing that Canada, Bri­tain, Aus­tralia and New Zealand are ex­cep­tion­ally like- minded and share com­mon val­ues, in­sti­tu­tions and his­to­ries — warts and all — does not be­tray a re­ac­tionary de­sire to some­how res­ur­rect the Em­pire or gloss over the sins of colo­nial­ism. Nor can rev­er­ence for the shared sac­ri­fices sym­bol­ized in our ceno­taphs and war ceme­ter­ies be ca­su­ally dis­missed as im­pe­rial nos­tal­gia.

More im­por­tant are shared geopo­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests and demo­cratic val­ues. Of course, coun­tries sep­a­rated by half the globe will not al­ways have the same pri­or­i­ties: Canada’s re­la­tion­ships with its North Amer­i­can neigh­bours will al­ways be paramount; the U. K. will al­ways be a Euro­pean power; Aus­tralia’s back­yard is the Indo- Pa­cific; and New Zealand will never match its larger neigh­bour’s in­ter­na­tional am­bi­tions. But all four coun­tries are com­mit­ted to, and ben­e­fit from, an in­ter­na­tional order where might does not make right, where democ­racy, hu­man rights, gen­der equal­ity and prin­ci­ples of in­clu­sion and tol­er­ance are up­held, and where rules and norms of be­hav­iour gov­ern diplo­macy and trade.

Th­ese are al­ready coun­tries with whom Canada shares its deep­est secrets as mem­bers, along with the United States, of the Five Eyes in­tel­li­gence network. Our mil­i­taries are tightly in­te­grated. We trade rel­a­tively freely through ex­ist­ing agree­ments, and Canada’s Lib­eral govern­ment has wel­comed a post- Brexit Canada- U. K. trade deal and sup­ports the U. K. join­ing the Trans- Pa­cific Part­ner­ship, of which Canada, Aus­tralia and New Zealand are al­ready mem­bers. More am­bi­tious co- oper­a­tion on de­fence, diplo­macy, trade, de­vel­op­ment and im­mi­gra­tion should fol­low nat­u­rally.

More­over, in re­cent months, each coun­try has faced the cold re­al­ity of China’s eco­nomic black­mail, in­tim­i­da­tion and ag­gres­sive diplo­macy. But there is safety in numbers. In a good ex­am­ple of closer align­ment, ear­lier this year, For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter François- Philippe Cham­pagne is­sued a joint state­ment with his Bri­tish and Aus­tralian coun­ter­parts con­demn­ing China’s dra­co­nian na­tional se­cu­rity leg­is­la­tion in Hong Kong. All four coun­tries have since sus­pended their ex­tra­di­tion treaties with the for­merly au­ton­o­mous city.

The up­com­ing U. S. elec­tion is another case in point. If Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is re- elected, Canada can pro­tect its in­ter­ests by stick­ing close to its other Five Eyes part­ners. Con­versely, a Joe Bi­den ad­min­is­tra­tion will seek to re­store Amer­ica’s re­la­tion­ships with its demo­cratic al­lies. Whether through a sum­mit of democ­ra­cies, an el­e­vated D10 (the G7 plus Aus­tralia, South Korea and per­haps In­dia) or the G20, Canada can in­crease its lever­age by co-or­di­nat­ing po­si­tions with the U. K. and Aus­tralia, in par­tic­u­lar.

None of this im­plies that Canada should over­look other im­por­tant part­ners. On the con­trary, now is time to deepen re­la­tions with Indo- Pa­cific democ­ra­cies like Ja­pan, South Korea and In­dia, and ASEAN mem­bers like Sin­ga­pore and Viet­nam. Canada should also rein­vig­o­rate the Com­mon­wealth and the Fran­co­phonie, and re­dou­ble its com­mit­ments to NATO and its long-stand­ing Euro­pean al­lies.

But it’s sim­ply fool­ish to down­play the importance and po­ten­tial of Canada’s re­la­tion­ships with the U. K., Aus­tralia and New Zealand. A hard- headed Cana­dian for­eign pol­icy should give two cheers to CANZUK.

yoke the strength of aus­tralia, new zealand and the u.k.

 ?? MARIO RUIZ / EPA ?? Canada’s Trade Min­is­ter François-philippe Cham­pagne is­sued a joint state­ment with his Bri­tish and Aus­tralian coun­ter­parts con­demn­ing China’s dra­co­nian na­tional se­cu­rity leg­is­la­tion in Hong Kong. All four
coun­tries have since sus­pended their ex­tra­di­tion treaties Hong Kong, Graeme Thomp­son writes.
MARIO RUIZ / EPA Canada’s Trade Min­is­ter François-philippe Cham­pagne is­sued a joint state­ment with his Bri­tish and Aus­tralian coun­ter­parts con­demn­ing China’s dra­co­nian na­tional se­cu­rity leg­is­la­tion in Hong Kong. All four coun­tries have since sus­pended their ex­tra­di­tion treaties Hong Kong, Graeme Thomp­son writes.

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