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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 11 February 2019

Economy

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Talk shop

Global markets are on tenterhooks to see if the US and China can agree a trade deal ahead of the March deadline.

US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin is in China this week for talks that he’s hoping will avert a further trade crisis. He’s meeting officials in Beijing, where he’ll be keen to negotiate trade issues before the March deadline set by Washington, after which 25 per cent tariffs on $200bn (€177bn) worth of Chinese imports will be imposed. The US wants Beijing to agree to uphold US intellectual property rights, allowing US companies easier access to selling in China and shrinking the US trade deficit. While Mnuchin has said he’s optimistic about the talks, investors aren’t: by end of play on Friday, markets around the world were down as fears over the prospect of a trade war grew.

Society

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Money for nothing

Finland’s experiment with universal basic income had its critics and doesn’t seem to have increased employment.

In 2017 and 2018 the Finnish government gave 2,000 randomly selected unemployed citizens €560 each month – tax free – in a landmark universal basic income (UBI) experiment. Some findings of the test are now in (a more detailed report will be released in 2020). The result? It made people happier, more relaxed and improved health but did nothing to boost employment or improve individual prospects. Some critics believe this conclusion sells UBI short, arguing that two years isn’t enough time to observe the full effect of the scheme on people’s lives and that 2,000 people is too small a pool. A less-assailable experiment might prove that UBI makes economic, as well as social, sense.

Brexit

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Slow motion

A report on the UK’s post-referendum economy makes for gloomy reading.

Independent UK think-tank the Resolution Foundation has today unveiled a briefing on the country’s economic performance since the 2016 EU referendum result. As its title – Counting the Cost – suggests, it doesn’t make for an uplifting read. The UK has gone from being one of the fastest-growing economies in the G7 before the referendum to one of the slowest. More worryingly, it has experienced the sharpest slowdown in income growth of any economy for which the OECD publishes data. While there is still no telling how deeply Brexit might hurt the UK, the run-up to leaving the EU already seems like a grievous act of self-harm.

Defence

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War at the White House

The US president risks a backlash from the Pentagon over his tactics in Syria. Let battle commence.

Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria has enraged some of his top foreign-policy advisers. US diplomat Brett McGurk and defence secretary Jim Mattis resigned over the issue in December; more could follow if Pentagon employees begin their expected exodus in the next few months. Scott Lucas, professor of US politics at the University of Birmingham in the UK, told The Monocle Minute that “a battle is being waged inside the Trump administration over US involvement in Syria”. He added: “The generals are furious that respected figures like Jim Mattis have been forced out over the issue. We’ll soon find out whether the White House is prepared to impose its authority on the Pentagon once and for all.”

From Monocle 24

Image: Shutterstock

Russia in Africa

The Foreign Desk

Russia’s slow but steady spread across Africa has hardly gone unnoticed. Its projects include precious metals, diamonds, oil and nuclear research, as well as arms trading and military training. But is Russia just in it for the resources and economic gains or is there something else at stake? Andrew Mueller is joined by Henry Foy, Nastassia Astrasheuskaya, Anzetse Were and Alex Vines.

From Monocle Films

Mexico City: The Monocle Travel Guide

Unconventional, ever-changing and utterly beguiling, this megalopolis is an endless parade of sights, sounds and smells.

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