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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 25 July 2017

Trade

Image: Getty Images

Not-so-cunning Fox

Tricky diplomacy lies ahead as the UK’s trade minister travels to the US – followed by Mexico.

The UK’s international trade minister Liam Fox is in Washington today hoping to drum up support for deeper trade ties. Then, later in the week, he moves on to Mexico for talks with economy minister Ildefonso Guajardo. The trip is fraught with complexity: the EU doesn’t allow its member states to negotiate trade deals alone and the UK is (for now) still a member; meanwhile, prime minister Theresa May’s chumminess with president Donald Trump earlier in the year could generate a frosty reception south of the Rio Grande. Fox will have to tread carefully and many doubt his diplomatic skills: on a visit to the Philippines earlier this year he spoke of “shared values” after a meeting with the country’s hardline president Rodrigo Duterte, widely accused of turning a blind eye to extrajudicial killings.

Infrastructure

Image: Getty Images

Going underground

Tokyo’s officials are hoping to bring an ancient bridge, currently eclipsed by a flyover, back into the limelight.

When Nihonbashi Bridge was built more than four centuries ago in one of Tokyo’s oldest commercial districts, it was the starting point for a medieval-period national-road network. Today the bridge is overshadowed by an expressway for cars but Japan’s Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry is considering plans to dismantle the ageing elevated motorway and bring back a bit of light for this historical landmark. If all goes to plan, once the 2020 Tokyo Olympics have wrapped up, nearly 3km of road would be moved underground at a cost of several hundred billion yen. Experts have previously advised moving the expressway to improve the crowded cityscape but it’s encouraging to see that there’s now the political will to make it happen.

Travel

Image: Getty Images

Train of thought

A new rail route from Turkey to Azerbaijan will improve links – just not with Armenia.

The Kars-Tbilisi-Baku train line – a new trade and travel corridor from Turkey through the South Caucasus to Azerbaijan originally slated to be completed in 2010 – has been a long time coming. But it’s starting to look on track: recently, a Turkish train made a test run through the country’s northeastern steppe towards Georgia. Though the region’s foreign ministers say this is a route about greater connectivity it’s also one that serves some broader political aims: the project was initially proposed in 2007 as an overland route around Armenia, which is locked in a bitter stalemate with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region; the completion of the line isolates Armenia from this trade growth. Additionally, it will also prove to be a vital transit route that circumvents Russia’s retaliatory embargo on the flow of foodstuffs from Europe through its borders to China.

Urbanism

Image: Alamy

No parking

US cities could learn something from the Mexican capital’s plan to tackle its traffic problem and curb rents.

Drivers in Mexico City may soon struggle to find parking but it’s all part of a canny urbanism plan. Last week the city rolled back regulations that require developers to create car-parking bays with every new housing unit, stipulating instead that only bicycle parking is mandatory in new builds. The thinking is that it’s a waste of valuable space that could be used to build on or expand existing plots and that this nudges rents up, not to mention encourages more car use in an already traffic-clogged city. Rapidly growing cities across the border such as Los Angeles could learn a thing or two from the plan: some 30 per cent of land area in US cities is dedicated to parking.

From Monocle 24

Image: Thomas Prior

Benidorm: Thomas Prior

Culture with Robert Bound

For 'The Escapist', photographer Thomas Prior accompanied Robert Bound to Benidorm to look at the trash and the treasure; they saw sunburn, tattoos, high-rises, crosses of St George, Reebok Classics, chips and a lot of beer being sprayed around. They discuss how they shot their photo essay.

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