The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 2 January 2018

International relations

Image: Getty Images

It’s good to talk

As tensions continue to simmer, North Korea makes a timely overture for peace with its southern neighbour.

Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s Day speech — and its olive-branch offering to improve relations with South Korea — comes at a particularly tense time in his nation’s relationship with its neighbour. Just days ago, South Korea stopped a second tanker ship suspected of selling oil to North Korea, which violates UN sanctions. The Koti, a vessel carrying Panama’s flag, was stopped at the Pyeongtaek-Dangjin port on South Korea’s west coast by officials. A month before that, Seoul seized the Lighthouse Winmore, a Hong Kong-registered ship, which it suspected of attempting to transfer oil to a North Korean ship in international waters. Yet for all the hot water caused by the ships’ seizures, Kim’s conciliatory reference to South Korea in yesterday’s speech, where he made explicit his wish “for peaceful resolution with our southern border” and offered to send a group to Pyeongchang for the Winter Olympics in February, will surely go over well with its neighbour, which has endured months of escalating tensions.

Trade

Image: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Going into reverse

A dip in last year’s car sales means that the US auto industry can’t rest on its laurels.

Bad news for the US auto industry: car companies are expected to report their sales for 2017 this week and forecasters are predicting a decline of almost 7 per cent over December 2016, and a 2 per cent overall drop year over year. If the reports prove the predictions right, it means 2017 will mark the first year since 2009 that new car sales have dipped compared to the previous year. While 2016 was a record-setting year for car sales — with 17.55 million vehicles sold — and the predicted slump isn’t a dramatic drop, the US auto industry will need to start shaking things up in order to maintain robust sales. That’s particularly true as electric cars begin to take centre stage: celebrated luxury car designer Henrik Fisker plans to unveil his new $129,000 (€107,000) electric car at the Consumer Electronics Show, which begins this week.

Trade

Image: Getty Images

Fleet upgrade

The tiny Gulf nation of Qatar is dramatically expanding its combat air-force capabilities.

The Qatar Emiri Air Force is on a spending spree. The Gulf nation has shelled out $6.17bn (€5.14bn) for 36 F-15QA Advanced Eagle combat aircraft with delivery expected by December 2022. Qatar and the US have signed a deal for the Boeing-made aircraft to the tune of $12bn (€10bn) but the fact that these jets amount to half of that price has some wondering if procurement of more aircraft is on the cards. The Boeing purchase isn’t the only one Qatar has made: over the past few months, the country has signed deals with France for 36 Dassault Rafales and the UK for 24 Eurofighter Typhoons.

Design

Image: Ulrike Stein/iStock

Making a mark

Mexico City is facing up to the challenges of rapid urbanisation with sensitivity and flair.

Things are heating up in Mexico City as it becomes 2018’s World Design Capital — only the sixth city to earn the accolade and the first ever capital from the Americas. It was chosen by the World Design Organisation, an NGO that launched the Design Capital programme in 2008 to celebrate cities that have championed smart use of urban design. (Past winners include Helsinki and the Italian city of Torino.) The heaving capital, which is home to more than 21 million people in the greater area, faces the twin challenges of preserving its heritage and transforming quickly and sustainably. The year-long programme will not only bring together the best designers, architects, urbanists and local government representatives, but it will also aim to regenerate low-income areas through socially responsible design.

From Monocle 24

Culture lookahead: 2018

Culture with Robert Bound

Robert Bound is joined in the studio by broadcaster and DJ Georgie Rogers, film critic for ‘The Telegraph’ Tim Robey and publisher at Unbound John Mitchinson to discuss the music, films and books that they’re looking forward to in 2018.

From Monocle Films

Travel Top 50 - 2017/2018

All aboard for our fast-paced rundown of the finest hotel openings, attentive on-board crews and delicious pick-me-ups.

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