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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 12 June 2018

Diplomacy

Image: Getty Images

Host with the most

As Trump and Kim sit down to talk, Singapore will be hoping it hasn’t forked out for nothing.

Today marks the long-awaited summit between US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Following the acrimonious unravelling of the G7 at the weekend, there may be cause for optimism going into the Singapore talks. The US president seems to admire dictators and strongmen more than his democratically elected contemporaries, which could mean an amicable dialogue between the two hot-headed leaders. One of the many countries hoping for a positive outcome will be the summit’s host: after electing to hold the sit-down, prime minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that staging it will cost about $20m (€17m). In a meet that could result in anything from damp squib to the first tentative steps toward a denuclearised North Korea, Singapore will be banking on its investment resulting in a big soft-power feather in the cap.

Economy

Image: Getty Images

Bridge the Gulf

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE have stepped in to shore up Jordan’s economy and quell dissent.

At an emergency conference in Mecca on Sunday leaders of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE agreed a $2.5bn (€2bn) economic aid package for Jordan, following mass protests in response to its deeply unpopular austerity measures. Jordan is currently suffocating under a debt of some $40bn (€34bn) and at the weekend crowds amassed in Amman demanding an end to the current government. The Gulf States supported the Jordanian economy after the 2011 Arab Spring, hoping that financial stability would prevent the revolution spreading there too, and the rationale behind Sunday’s aid package is no different. The fear is that any upheaval in Jordan, a Sunni-majority monarchy, would provide a template for dissent among its politically and ideologically similar Gulf State neighbours.

Diplomacy

Image: Getty Images

Thought that counts

The US is keeping the opening of its de facto embassy in Taiwan on the downlow but that doesn’t mean it’s not important to Taipei.

With the eyes of the world on Singapore’s Trump-Kim summit, the US is opening its $240m (€203m) de facto embassy – officially referred to as the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) – in Taipei today in a low-key ceremony attended by assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, Maria Royce. Washington’s decision not to send a senior cabinet member to the ribbon-cutting is seen as a sop to China; the US opened the first AIT soon after it cut official ties in 1979 and moved its embassy to Beijing. A disappointed Taipei will be keen to play up any signs of increased US support and the AIT’s director Kin Moy has called it a milestone in the US-Taiwan relationship. Indeed, the new facility, an Obama-era initiative announced in 2009, is more than twice the size of the existing location. The choice of Royce could also constitute a subtle message from the Trump administration: her husband Ed – a Republican politician and chairman of the House of Representatives’ committee on foreign affairs – has championed several pro-Taiwan bills in congress and called the disputed island a “top priority”.

Business

Image: Clement Morin

Lick your wounds

Mars, well known for its chocolate bars, is expanding – and its new line is a whole different animal.

Feeding and caring for pets has always been big business but the sector is currently seeing a frenzy of activity. Partly, this is thanks to Mars, the company best known for its chocolate and sweets brands, which announced yesterday that it had agreed to buy AniCura, a Stockholm-based animal-hospital group. When we featured AniCura last year in The Monocle Summer Weekly, we pointed to how the group had spread impressively across Europe, with 150 clinics across Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria (as well as the Nordics). It looks like Mars’s little-known pet-care division – which has also bought two other similar companies, VCA Inc and Linnaeus Group, in the past 10 months – also spotted the brand’s rapid rise. As AniCura CEO Peter Dahlberg (pictured) told us last year, the reason for the boom is simple: “Pets have become more and more valued.”

From Monocle 24

Image: Alamy

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This week our correspondent Jason Strother delves into the history of Seoul to explore what keeps this vibrant city afloat.

From Monocle Films

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