Five Eyes alliance could expand in scope to counteract China

Five Eyes alliance could expand in scope to counteract China

  • Plans mooted to pool strategic resources and lessen west’s dependency on China

The Five Eyes intelligence alliance could be expanded to include Japan and broadened into a strategic economic relationship that pools key strategic reserves such as critical minerals and medical supplies, according to centre-right MPs working internationally to decouple the west from China.

The coronavirus crisis has revealed the west’s key strategic dependencies on China, and plans will be announced shortly under Five Eyes auspices for a major increase in production of rare and semi-rare metals from Australia, Canada, and America in order to reduce dependency on Chinese stocks.

Critical minerals, known as rare earth elements, are the key components in a wide range of consumer products including mobile phones, laptops and TVs, and have widespread defence applications in jet engines, satellites, lasers and missiles. On average, China has accounted for more than 90% of the global production and supply of rare earths during the past decade, according to the US Geological Survey.

The potential for an expanding role for the Five Eyes alliance, an intelligence relationship formed in 1941, is part of a growing interest among conservative democratic lawmakers to form a cohesive political and economic alliance to compete with China. The proposals have an added allure for British Conservative MPs looking for deeper trading relationships outside the EU and China. The current Five Eyes members are Australia, the US, Britain, Canada and New Zealand.

The idea of a Five Eyes free trade bloc has won the backing of Andrew Hastie, chair of the Australian parliament’s joint committee on intelligence and a longterm critic of China.

He told a Henry Jackson Society seminar on decoupling with China that: “once we review our supply chains and establish vulnerabilities – and I trust the other Five Eyes countries will do the same – that will give the basis for an understanding where we can mitigate one another’s weakness and yes there is a potential to build a free trading bloc. We should do everything possible to build out that network.”