Wednesday 17 May 2017 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 17/5/2017

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images


Practice makes perfect

May is usually a terrible time to visit Hong Kong but a little rain has not put off the region’s statesmen. The Indonesian and Filipino presidents have both visited this month, while Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif is currently in town and his Kiwi counterpart arrives tomorrow. Hong Kong’s many consulates are home to a strong diplomatic corps but, with official embassies in Beijing, it is usually a backwater for state visits. Yet not everyone is pleased with the visits; while Indonesia’s Jokowi and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte were both warmly received, Sharif’s arrival was preceded by a petition, launched by local Pakistanis, seeking to bar his entry. This hullabaloo is good practice for diplomats here as Hong Kong is preparing for July’s 20th anniversary of its handover to China when president Xi Jinping is expected to make his first visit to the territory as leader.

Image: Reuters


Delay dilemma

Brexiteers claimed that the UK would be able to easily leap from membership of the EU to inking a new trade deal with the bloc but any hope of that now looks fanciful. Yesterday the European Court of Justice ruled that certain key sections of a free-trade deal between the EU and Singapore – which has been in the works since 2010 – will need to be signed off by every EU member state’s national parliament, as well as by EU institutions. It makes it more likely that we’ll see a repeat of last year, when the tiny Belgian state of Wallonia held up the EU-Canada free-trade deal. The UK’s negotiators now have a choice: either dilute the agreement to incorporate only the sections that can be signed off exclusively by EU institutions or face delays. Either way, a tricky Brexit just got trickier.

Image: Koelnmesse Image Database


Helping hand

As the leading fair in interiors and furniture production, bi-annual trade show Interzum, on now in Köln, can be tough to navigate. It’s even more of a challenge for emerging designers attending for the first time, as there are more than 1,500 material and component manufacturers – from laminate flooring to hinge-makers – on display across 10 halls. To assist the industry’s novices, the fair has launched MaterialTransformation, a service that aims to connect young industrial designers with manufacturers. Companies on the supply side can use the service to introduce their samples to fresh talent while designers can attend workshops to meet potential partners. On Friday, MaterialTransformation’s stand at the fair will also host a talk by young design studios who will share the challenges they faced when first entering the industry. For such a specialist fair it’s a remarkable show of openness aimed at the next generation. It’s an example that would benefit many of the more mainstream appointments on the design calendar too.

Image: Getty Images


Making waves

The Japan Coast Guard’s job is mainly policing the country’s maritime borders but lately it hasn’t been sticking to its own territorial waters. Its vessels are heading to Davao in the Philippines for joint training exercises in early June and then on to Danang in Vietnam for another session mid-month. Japan has held manoeuvres with both countries in the past but this will be the first involving large patrol boats. While the stated aim is to thwart piracy and illegal incursions of fishing boats, there’s another unspoken reason for the neighbourly assistance: all three countries have maritime border disputes with China. Japan has become more generous with its offers of second-hand maritime patrol vessels and training for nearby countries as China has asserted its claims over vast swathes of regional waters. Wary of provoking Beijing, Tokyo is limiting its assistance to non-military matters but that’s unlikely to make relations between the region’s biggest powers any less testy.

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