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Tony Abbott and Xi Jinping signing a free trade agreement in 2014 (CC BY 3.0 AU)


Consider this: are there any big issues where the interests or values of the principal English-speaking countries clash? Obviously, the US has a greater stake in Mexico than Australia does. Britain can leave the EU but it can’t ignore the rest of Europe as the US conceivably could. But does the US want something from Mexico that Canada would deplore; or does Britain seek anything from Europe that Australia would oppose? I doubt it.

Of course, the perspective of a left-of-centre government will often differ from that of a right-of-centre one. Still, my instinct is that left-wing governments in English-speaking countries are often closer to right-wing English-speaking governments than they are to left-wing ones beyond the Anglosphere.

True, the new left-leaning Canadian government stopped air strikes in Syria. But Tony Blair’s Labour government was in lock-step with George W. Bush’s Republican administration on Middle Eastern policy, and David Cameron’s Conservative-led coalition government was no less zealous than Barack Obama’s Democrat White House about tackling climate change. A centre-left Australian government under Bob Hawke backed George H.W. Bush’s liberation of Kuwait scarcely less strongly than a centre-right government under John Howard backed George W. Bush’s removal of Saddam Hussein.

New governments in all the English-speaking countries change policy but they rarely change orientation. All the Anglosphere countries are committed to the rule of law, the importance of markets and the benefits of trade, responsible government, and a high measure of individual freedom. My contention is that these aren’t so much “Anglo” values as universal ones — as their incidence around the globe strongly suggests. It’s no mere chance that the world’s most globally-oriented cities — after London and New York — are Singapore and Hong Kong, both of which have well and truly assimilated the rule of law and the English language.

At the heart of Western civilisation, especially its English-speaking version, is the notion that every person is worthy of respect and should be treated decently. The notion that you should treat others as you would have them treat you or that you should “love your neighbour as you love yourself” is inherently attractive. Perhaps this is why authoritarian or theocratic cultures find the West so threatening.

Yes, it’s important not to get too starry-eyed about a tradition of political and social stability or a long history of shared endeavours in common causes. Putting it mildly, it’s hard to be enthused about this year’s US presidential campaign. The Brexit vote was widely (but wrongly, in my view) construed as Britain turning away from the world. Much slower economic growth since 2008 has bred frustration with democratic governments everywhere and spurred more populist politics. Still, the less secure and less certain the world becomes, the more important it is that like-minded countries continue to work together to make a difference.

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