On April 18th, 2018, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and British Prime Minister Theresa May attended a meeting at the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London.
The four countries held a joint media event to provide a united front against Russian cyber attacks and mis-use of chemical weapons. The value of CANZUK security collaboration is clear and acknowledged by the four leaders through their joint meeting.
The trade leg of CANZUK is also proceeding apace, with multiple statements of commitments for trade deals between each of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK, and the additional possibility that they all might together participate in the TPP.
Justin Trudeau says he wants a trade deal with the UK that will “flip over the day after Brexit” and is deeper and better than the deal with the EU. British officials are due to fly to Canberra “within days” to work on a deal with Australia that would be ready to be signed the day after Brexit. Ardern and May met to discuss the UK-NZ trade deal. Separately, Ardern and Trudeau met to discuss “progressive trade” and international security challenges.
Australia has also recently proposed a reciprocal migration deal with the UK, specifically in the form of a version of the reciprocal “E3” visa arrangement Australia currently has with the United States. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said “reciprocal arrangement for enhanced visa access would be something we’d be very keen to achieve”.
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Thus the three legs of CANZUK — a security partnership, a free trade deal or deals, and a mutual migration deal or deals — continue to develop.
It is in the nature of the CANZUK states that mutual understanding and natural affinities are high, so a great deal of progress might be achieved simply by pushing down these natural paths rather than through dirigiste formalisation in a single set-piece agreement.
What matters is that there actually be mutual free trade, security partnership and easy migration, rather than a single Treaty called “CANZUK”. But the extremely positive social media and broader public reaction to images of the CANZUK leaders’ joint media event may suggest there could be synergies in the promotion of the underlying goal, by making more of joint CANZUK declarations, as well as the obviously-welcome bilateral declarations between CANZUK partners.
It appears that the CANZUK nations consider security issues the most straightforward for joint declaration. Perhaps we may find they also coordinate on global environmental issues, such as promoting reductions in the use of single-use plastic.
Once a free trade agreement or agreements are in place, it will become increasingly natural to coordinate over more such issues. Let us urge our leaders to seize the chances as they come.
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