The second edition of Brent H. Cameron’s book, “The Case for Commonwealth Free Trade: Options for a new globalization is available now on Amazon worldwide.
We live in a world where those for whom we looked to for answers are silent. Whether it be the chastening of the last two decades of failed policies and predictions – from the Great Recession, to Brexit, to Trump, to humanitarian crises, to the dysfunction of the EU, to the machinations of the Russian state, to the increasingly assertive posture of China’s Communist regime – or some other collective.
Whatever the reasons or motivations, we are left with two clear and incontrovertible facts – the world is in some disarray, and those for whom the world looks to for answers are seized by some form of ennui. Problems have been, and are appearing. Our traditional champions – having failed to predict the looming situation, and suffering from some degree of inertia – have vacated the field.
Nature abhors a vacuum, so in the absence of the usual suspects offering their plans to ‘fix what ails us’, here is my humble offering – for Brexit and for the global order as a whole:
- Deal or No Deal: Complete the Article 50 (Brexit) process by March 2019 – preferably with a FTA in place, but complete it nonetheless. Whether or not the EU wishes to admit it, a ‘no deal Brexit’ hurts them as much as it does the UK. At the very least, they will have to scramble to make up the nearly £9 billion net contribution Britain makes to the EU. At worst, Britain could agree to forfeit any and all claims against assets in Europe, and – as Dominic Raab has already suggested – not pay the £39 billion ‘divorce bill.’
What Britain loses in the short term is preferred market access to the EU – which it can recover from with trade deals from elsewhere. The EU, on the other hand, will have to contend with the tough decisions that come from a budget shortfall (and the ensuing rise of Euroscepticism among remaining members) as well as the loss of reputation among the broader global economic community due to its pettiness and hostility in these dealings.
Best case scenario, though, is that both parties agree to the ‘Super Canada’ alternative that David Campbell Bannerman has so effectively portrayed and promoted.
- From CETA to CANUK – Ratify a Canada-UK (or ‘CANUK’) FTA, based on the terms and text of the existing CETA treaty, to come into effect March 30, 2019 – the day immediately after Brexit is fully enacted. The treaty is already ratified, and currently governs trade between the two countries. A CANUK treaty need only be amended to such an extent as to legally conform to the situation. Leave the provisions and percentages in tact.
CETA is a 1500-page treaty that took seven years to negotiate. With a group of lawyers sequestered for three weeks – aided by that handy ‘Find/Replace With’ command in Microsoft Word that can convert ‘European Union’ to ‘United Kingdom’ with the click of a mouse, a new treaty that grandfathers the CETA terms beyond Brexit could be ready for a formal signing before Christmas. Better still, it would free up British negotiators to deal with Brussels, and their Canadian counterparts to sort out the latest emanations from Washington.
- A Commonwealth Agreement: Shortly after CANUK goes into effect, Prime Minister May needs to invite Prime Ministers Ardern, Trudeau and Turnbull for a meeting to discuss the creation of a Commonwealth Free Trade Agreement (CFTA). The easiest path would be to harmonise the CANUK and ANZCERTA treaties into one. Of course, this will not be completely easy. One expects that dairy will be a sticking point – particularly between Canada and Australia/New Zealand. If push comes to shove, proceed with the treaty, but create a working group to exempt Canadian dairy from it until such time the issue gets sorted out.
- Scalability and Durability: Build into the new CFTA treaty three provisions that give it resilience – a ‘Code of Conduct’ (freedom of speech, civil society, etc.), a mechanism for identifying and addressing large and sustained trade imbalances among member states (a ‘Reciprocity’ clause), and a formula for expansion. As more and more Commonwealth jurisdictions join a CFTA, the size of the population base, GDP and influence within the global trading network will grow
The CFTA Treaty must – however – make two things abundantly clear. No political harmonization, and non-exclusivity. Members are not forfeiting either their sovereignty or their right to sign treaties elsewhere.
5. Strategic Partnerships: Sign strategic treaties with the United States, European Union, Japan and other non-Commonwealth states for whom CFTA members share philosophical affinities and joint perspectives on a rules-based trading system that places value on rights and civil society.
6.Let nature (and gravity) take its course: A CFTA that even only included Britain, India, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Malaysia – strategically connected to the EU, United States and Japan – becomes the new nucleus of the global economic system. The gravitational pull of such an agglomeration would influence other international actors to adopt ‘best practices’ in their external dealings in order to be associated with it – whether it be Commonwealth states wanting to join the CFTA proper, or other states wanting to join in this new trading network.
A CFTA that includes India, and is strategically aligned with the US and Japan, would guarantee a new liberal democratic consensus another 75 to 80 years – what I would call a ‘Bretton Woods 2.0’
To the naysayers…
Imagine getting into a time machine and transporting yourself to Paris in 1943. Imagine then, going up to any person – someone whose father suffered injuries during the Great War, whose grandfather remembered the panic that beset the city when it was under siege by Prussia in 1870, and who has had to endure occupation themselves – and saying the following:
“Seventy years from now, there will be peace and democracy – Fascism and Communism will fail. We will have a Union that includes all the nations of Europe. We will have a Parliament, a Court of Justice, and use the same money – no Francs or Deutschmarks, but Euros. We’ll even have a new flag and play Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy.’
Think to yourself what reaction you would get – beyond the predictable expletives and the hurried rush to get away from a person who might draw the attention of the authorities.
The fact that EU exists at all owes to the determination of people to defy both history and conventional wisdom, undeterred and undaunted. For those of us, the challenge of building the world I speak of is much less of an effort.
All we have to do is overcome the conventional wisdom part.