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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 17 April 2018

Politics

Image: Getty Images

Following through

Trump can help Shinzo Abe get out of the rough but the Japanese premier still has a fair way to go.

After cronyism scandals resulted in resignation rumours and a plummeting approval rating, you could say that political life has been all bunkers and bogeys for Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe lately. This week offers a chance to knock his career out of the rough, with a two-day summit scheduled with US president Donald Trump that will culminate in a game of golf at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. The summit, requested by Abe, has been part of a long-running charm offensive against the US president. Abe’s main intention in the forthcoming talks will be to ensure that Japan isn’t left out of disarmament negotiations between the US and North Korea – he is justly concerned that the rogue state may relinquish the missiles capable of hitting US soil and keep those that leave Tokyo within range. With uncomfortable conversations around trade also on the agenda, the meeting will be a test of Abe’s current handicap.

Manufacturing

Image: Getty Images

Top gear

Major car brands are putting pedal to the metal ahead of ‘Auto China’ next week.

Automakers the world over are gearing up for Beijing International Motor Exhibition, commonly known as Auto China, but some US and European brands have taken an early start in the race for publicity. Ford unveiled its new Focus in the inland megacity of Chongqing last week while Daimler is teasing luxury-car fans with a video clip of a Mercedes-Maybach SUV which is due to be unveiled fully at the show next week. Both launches signify a clear play for the Chinese market. That these two major marques are debuting cars in China underlines the importance of the market. Sales in the country continue to accelerate, particularly for SUVs which posted double-digit growth in the first quarter of this year. President Xi Jinping’s recent promise to lower tariffs on foreign car imports, currently at 25 per cent, is certain to have driven many US and European car executives wild with excitement.

Diplomacy

Image: Getty Images

Forcing the issue

Russia is flexing its muscles but will its own people bear the brunt of its ire?

The economic and political sparring between Russia and the West shows no signs of abating as the country’s State Duma convened yesterday to discuss countermeasures to sanctions from the US and EU – imposed as punishment for Russia’s alleged poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. On the list of potential responses are prohibitions on certain US and EU-derived medication, foodstuffs, tobacco and alcohol, as well as ad hoc entry restrictions on skilled migrant workers or professional expats from the offending countries. The Federation Council says that the counter-sanctions are about showing where Russia draws its “red lines” but some political experts think it’s more muscle-flexing than a tangible castigation. “It’s certainly a case of ‘cutting off the nose to spite the face’,” says Russia analyst Stephen Dalziel. “Many Western companies have already diversified their exports to cope with Russian sanctions. Once again, those hardest hit will be long-suffering Russian consumers.”

Geopolitics

Image: Alamy

Along for the ride

A recent UN resolution has united an unusual group of countries about a rather un-UN topic.

The UN comes in for a lot of criticism and, many would argue, with good reason. But sometimes the organisation surpasses itself and takes a decision designed to engender a sense of global goodwill. Take the recent General Assembly meeting in New York, where a resolution was passed declaring 3 June World Bicycle Day. The draft proposal was submitted in March by an intriguing assortment of countries, including Russia, Ecuador and Vietnam. The communiqué announcing the resolution’s adoption claimed that the bicycle has played a part in “promoting tolerance, mutual understanding and respect; and facilitating a culture of peace”. You may feel that’s something of a stretch but, perhaps like the UN in today’s volatile and divided world, you take your victories where you can.

From Monocle 24

The art of change

Sunday Brunch

We look at whether art can encourage social change, explore why we immortalise musicians and speak with LA-based forward-thinking musician E Ruscha V about his album ‘Who Are You’. Plus: Jane Robinson on the women’s march of 1913, some Japanese grilling and Kevin Craig with the weekend papers.

From Monocle Films

Monocle – The Salone Weekly

Our latest adventure in ink and paper is focused on Milan's Salone del Mobile. We discover the new creations – and the people behind them – that are making an appearance this year, as well as the big names. From insider industry news to the best places to sip your negroni, the Salone Weekly is your perfect companion.

Pick up your copy from the best newsstands in Milan.

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