In September 2021 the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States announced a new security partnership: AUKUS. The aspect which has received most attention is the provision for the U.K. and the U.S. to help Australia acquire and operate nuclear-powered submarines.
But this is only the first of the agreement’s two pillars. Pillar II includes cooperation on advanced cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, undersea capabilities, hypersonic missiles and counter-hypersonic missile technology, electronic warfare, and wider innovation and information sharing.
While some aspects of Pillar II are still unclear, it is likely to become a major driving force behind innovation in this field. Canada would greatly benefit from joining what would be the world’s most advanced partnership on defence technology and would thus guarantee its position as a key player in Western defence. But AUKUS too would be strengthened by bringing in Canada. Canada’s geography, advanced technological sectors, particularly AI and quantum computing, and its integration with the U.S. significantly complement AUKUS objectives. This report therefore recommends enlarging Pillar II to include Canada.
Canada’s own ambition to further develop critical mineral mining and processing infrastructure is an additional factor. It is in the enviable position of having large reserves of the most critical minerals and the industry to extract, process, manufacture and recycle them. Enhancing collaboration on these critical minerals would ensure greater resilience of AUKUS supply chains and reduce dependence on non-allied sources, notably China. Securing critical minerals supply chains should be a priority for AUKUS members. This report therefore recommends introducing tariff and quota free trade in critical minerals among all members of the agreement.
Despite these positive prospects, there are challenges to the successful development of Pillar II, notably ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations), the U.S. regulatory regime which restricts the transfer of controlled defence articles and services. AUKUS, in contrast to ITAR, hinges on the assumption that a select group of allies should be trusted and therefore not subject to the same regulations as all other states. The report therefore recommends legislating to allow the free flow of defence articles between all AUKUS members.
Summary of recommendations:
- Expand AUKUS Pillar II to include Canada.
- Ensure the security of supply of critical minerals and commit to tariff and quota-free trade in critical minerals among AUKUS members.
- Revise ITAR to allow the free flow of defence articles among all AUKUS members.
- Encourage legislators in AUKUS member countries to maintain pressure on their respective governments to keep up momentum on the issue.
“Three years ago Brexit Britain helped to create the most significant new military pact for decades – a technology sharing alliance between the US the UK and Australia. At its heart was a simple notion – that the most sensitive military secrets could only be shared between countries that had the strongest diplomatic, political and emotional ties.
We are sharing nuclear submarine technology because we trust each other so deeply and because we have the same implicit belief in freedom and democracy. Between us, the founders are building the most advanced submarine the world has ever seen: SSN-AUKUS.Some will see them as weapons of war. I view them as guarantors of peace.
But AUKUS is about much more than submarines.
‘Pillar II’, as it’s called, is about developing a range of advanced capabilities, to share technology and increase the interoperability of our armed forces. Deeper integration of science, tech, and industrial capacity will deliver the fastest and most exciting results, with some specific targets already in sight, such as hypersonic missiles and underwater drones.
It is time to now to go further and to being in other countries to this partnership – and the most obvious next candidate must be Canada. Canada is not just a lynchpin of the Commonwealth and the G7. For more than a century Canadians have fought – often heroically – for freedom.
No country better epitomises the values that make Aukus possible – and Canada has a huge amount to offer”.
Rt. Hon. Boris Johnson
“Canada is the most obvious candidate should the AUKUS partnership be expanded. Canada is a member of the G7group of major economies, with ample capacity to boost its own military strength and to contribute to that of others through its manufacturing and technological strengths and endowment with strategic minerals”.
Hon Tony Abbott AC, 28th Prime Minister of Australia
“In today’s uncertain world it is more important than ever that historic allies work together to strengthen the West’s collective defence capabilities. I welcome the Legatum Institute’s paper calling for Canadian accession to AUKUS Pillar II and hope it is something that the governments of Canada and AUKUS will work together to achieve.”
Rt Hon Stephen Harper, 22nd Prime Minister of Canada
“It is essential that the UK continues to work closely with long-standing allies to thwart the hostile ambitions of authoritarian regimes. Bringing Canada into the AUKUS family would be a timely strategic move to strengthen the West’s collective defences.”
Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP