The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 24 August 2016

Image: Toru Hanai/PA Images

Keep your friends close

When Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau visited Japan in May, his counterpart Shinzo Abe gave him an effusive welcome. Japan’s prime minister has long sought a closer economic relationship with Canada as other world economies such as the US and the UK appear to be embarking on a more protectionist approach. So why does Canada, whose economy has struggled to buffer against the effects of the tumult in world oil and gas prices, seem reticent to deepen its economic relationship with Japan? The major sticking point appears to be the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), currently being negotiated, which would soften trade barriers between western economies and 12 Pacific-rim nations. Japan is a key supporter of the pact, while Justin Trudeau has expressed concerns. Whatever the outcome of the TPP negotiations, Ottawa should look to tighten its ties with Japan. In a shifting global economic landscape Canada, like many other nations, should embrace new relationships as they emerge. Its economy needs all the friends it can get.

Image: Anthony Wallace/Getty Images

Designer politics

After Taiwan’s new president, Tsai Ing-wen, used design to lure young voters to ballot boxes during her presidential run, Hong Kong’s next batch of political candidates is hoping to emulate her success. Two weeks prior to the Legislative Council election, the city’s streets are populated with political parties’ posters. It’s not just a battle over their vision for the city’s democratic future but also over design. “Speaking of art direction, the younger parties have some decent branding strategies,” says Toby Ng, an award-winning Hong Kong-based graphic designer. “Bold, simple and direct with a good mix of photo-colour tone and tailor-made fonts that catch the attention of passers-by and get their message across.”

Image: Ian Patterson

Watch the money

As the European summer draws to a close, Swiss watch manufacturers are going through a rocky patch, with sluggish sales across the board. The same could be said of post-Brexit Britain. However, both are benefitting, in one way at least, from the fallout of the June referendum. The weaker pound, which has lost value in the past two months, is proving a boon for UK retailers and Swiss watch brands alike. According to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, UK sales of Swiss-made timepieces were up by more than 13 per cent in July compared to the same month last year. “The biggest increase has been in shoppers from Asia and the US,” says Brian Duffy, CEO of leading London retailer Watches of Switzerland. “A good proportion of brands have already put prices up to protect their margins. That said, I expect the pound to stay weak and our sales to stay strong.”

Image: Yu Nakajima/PA Images

Who’s on the podium?

The slick Rio Olympics closing ceremony cameo from 2020 hosts Tokyo – including a bizarre if cute appearance from Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe dressed as video-game character Mario – may suggest the Olympic rings are in good hands. But as the final athletes and officials depart Rio, the long-term future of the Games is in doubt. Just two cities will submit realistic bids for the 2024 Games – Paris and Los Angeles – and there is a shortage of democratic nations willing to put their name forward beyond that. Broadcasters are also worried. The next three winter and summer games are all in Asia, causing scheduling problems for NBC. Factor in the almost certain procession of doping charges likely to emerge in the months and years to come and the post-Rio glow may not last very long.

From Monocle 24

Image: The London Design Biennale 2016

Christopher Turner on London Design Biennale

September will see the inaugural London Design Biennale take place at Somerset House. The show’s director Christopher Turner tells us why London is an essential venue for the exhibition and how different nations have tackled the tricky notion of “utopia”.

From Monocle Films

Bare essentials

Monocle Films explored Bikini Berlin, a newly redesigned complex mixing retail, culture and creative thinking about the public space. Once a fading relic of the Cold War, intelligent ideas from its new tenants are helping to redefine the shopping mall model.

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