Monday, 14 May 2018

Why CANZUK?

Mike Reddell wonders why I support CANZUK, the movement wishing to expand the Australia-NZ free mobility area to include Canada and the UK.
I’ve never been quite sure what to make of the CANZUK cause. I read a lot of imperial/Commonwealth history, and ideas like this sort of free movement area among the old ‘white Dominions’ are strikingly reminiscent of calls for an imperial federation or, much later, for imperial trade preferences (which became a big thing as the UK moved away from free trade itself).  I could be a little provocative and suggest that is wasn’t entirely dissimilar to the sort of immigration policies New Zealand and Australia ran until a few decades ago, that could be  –  not entirely inaccurately –  characterised as “white Australia” or “white New Zealand” policies.  In that sense, I’ve always been a bit puzzled by Eric Crampton’s enthusiasm for this particular formulation, when he is so ready to characterise sceptics or opponents of New Zealand’s current immigration policy as “xenophobes”.   The logic of his position looks as though it should favour open borders more generally, not just among these four advanced, fairly culturally similar, countries.  And yet, for example, even as an example of Commonwealth sentiment, not even South Africa –  let alone Zimbabwe, Kenya or Namibia – appears in the CANZUK proposal.
I favour global free trade. My first-best preference would be that every tariff and trade barrier would be abolished tomorrow. Where that isn't possible, I prefer unilateral tariff reductions and membership in as many free-trade areas as possible. I supported the free trade deal with China, but that was hardly in opposition to supporting free trade with other places too.

I understand that there is a lot more opposition to immigration than there is to trade. But most of the usual criticisms of free migration don't apply to a free migration area between Canada, the UK, Australia and NZ. People flocking here from any of those to get free health care? Nah. People flocking here from any of those to collect welfare? Not plausible. They'll destroy our culture somehow? Depends on your thoughts on British cuisine I guess.

I don't buy those arguments against more liberal immigration policy with other countries either, but I expect I'm there in a minority.

It would be an odd free-trader who'd object to a free-trade deal with China when one's on the table just because it isn't a global free-trade deal.

It would be a puzzle if I supported a Fortress version of CANZUK that would close the borders to immigration from outside the region. I don't support that. CANZUK, plus continue letting people from other places become Canadians, Kiwis, Australians and Brits.

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