The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 20 January 2017

Image: Getty Images

Donald’s European disunion

When it comes to foreign policy, Europe rarely speaks with one voice. But aside from the soon-to-be-departing UK, the continent seems fairly united in its unease at the prospect of President Trump. That level of concern has only increased in the weeks since the election as he has criticised German chancellor Angela Merkel, argued that Nato is “obsolete” and predicted that other nations will leave the EU. Since the end of the Second World War, the US has viewed Europe as its most important ally. There have been serious splits – most recently during the George W Bush administration over Iraq and some aspects of trade – but there has always been the sense that, on the whole, they are both on the same side. Once Trump is sworn in, that will no longer be the case. Welcome to the age of uncertainty.

Image: Getty Images

Talking to Tokyo?

The signals that Donald Trump sent out about Japan on the campaign trail last year were mixed to say the least. He called for the country to shoulder even more of the cost of hosting US troops on its soil, suggested that pacifist Japan should develop nuclear weapons to defend itself against North Korea and announced that in his first 100 days he’d be ditching the Trans Pacific Trade Partnership, a complex and lengthy negotiation that Japanese – and many other – bureaucrats have been working on for years. Although Shinzo Abe was the first leader to meet the president-elect, Trump’s apparent indifference to the US-Japan alliance, hitherto a cornerstone of US policy in Asia, has left Japan looking vulnerable. And he compounded the instability by adding Toyota to a list of multinationals threatened with a hefty border tax if they manufacture goods intended for the US market in other countries. The Japanese government is trying to fight back with a briefing paper that politely points out Japan’s contribution to the US economy, which includes the creation of 839,000 jobs in the US and cumulative Japanese investment of $411bn (€387bn), compared to China’s $15bn (€14bn). Whether Trump is willing to listen to his country’s most important ally in Asia is another matter.

Trump: Turkey

There’s a pressing bit of business left in the in-tray at the Oval Office: should the US directly arm Kurdish forces in its assault on Isis-held Raqqa? It’s a question that President Trump will need to mull over carefully. It would be disastrous for relations between the US and Turkey, with the latter viewing the Kurds in Syria as an extension of the separatist movement within its own borders. American generals are already closely watching for an axis shift by Turkey towards Russia – they conducted joint airstrikes on Isis this week. A further slide could imperil intelligence and facility-sharing on Nato’s eastern flank. Depending on what Trump decides regarding the Kurds, relations may be due for a reboot: some in Ankara say he would consider extraditing Fethullah Gülen, accused of masterminding 2016’s failed coup but ultimately it’s the US courts that decide. Turkey’s President Erdogan, for his part, wants to rule unchallenged; a US president who shouts down reporters would likely be welcomed.

Image: Getty Images

Chinese whispers

President Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have agreed to meet “at an early date” following today's swearing-in ceremony in Washington. The political realities of China’s biggest consumer attempting to strike a more favourable deal with one of the US’s biggest creditors mean that trade and tariffs, rather than Taiwan, are sure to be the main talking points. With neither superpower likely to budge from the status quo the most important proxy battles will be fought in Southeast Asia: US ties with Vietnam and the Philippines hang in the balance following the unravelling of the Trans Pacific Partnership and the election of Rodrigo Duterte, respectively. As China actively woos these fast growing and demographically blessed economies the rookie US commander in chief can’t afford to leave it too long to find his diplomatic feet. In the meantime Asia should be prepared for a few trademark surprises: a Trump tweet about Hong Kong independence or freeing Tibet could make that first meeting with Beijing a little frosty.

From Monocle 24

Alicante’s mushrooms

The Spanish city of Alicante, known for its beachfront high-rises and perennial sunshine, also has a lesser-known but infinitely more colourful attraction: some rather large, shiny and undeniably controversial mushrooms sprouting along the Calle San Francisco.

From Monocle Films

IMM Cologne

Every year hundreds of brands and buyers congregate at IMM, the first international furniture fair of the year. Hosted at the Koelnmesse in the German city of Köln, this tradeshow sets the agenda for what’s to come and shines a light on the European market. We’ve toured its expansive halls and picked out a few favourites.

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