Monday. 7/6/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Tomos Lewis

Setting a president

When Joe Biden arrives in the UK this week ahead of the G7 leaders’ summit in Cornwall, it will be his first overseas trip since assuming office in January. And given that a key tenet of his presidency so far has been to reassert and recast US leadership internationally, the conference will be his first chance to demonstrate exactly what that means.

We already have a sense of Biden’s priorities: discussions of vaccine equity, climate change and quelling China’s dominance in the Asia-Pacific are inevitable. The president will also seek to set the tone ahead of his first face-to-face meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin the following Wednesday in Geneva. But the most significant priority shift has been Washington’s calls to implement a global minimum corporation tax, injecting new life into an idea that has been discussed at length ever since the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis.

The stars are aligning for Biden to get an unprecedented global deal on corporate taxation across the line – one that even the business community appears likely to get on board with. And yet the tone of debate has sharpened recently. After protracted efforts in Europe to reclaim allegedly unpaid tax revenue by some of the US’s largest companies, including Apple and Microsoft, the US last week threatened retaliatory tariffs unless a new global corporation tax is agreed by the G7.

Biden’s debut visit overseas, then, will be an opportunity to put into practice the rhetoric he campaigned on in the presidential election last year: that leadership is most effective when it is collaborative, rather than simply insisting on going it alone. A grand bargain on corporate taxation would go a long way to proving his point.

Image: Alamy

Defence / Africa

Play fighting

Western Sahara is playing host to nearly 8,000 troops as the African Lion 2021 military exercises begin today. Organised by the US and hosted by Morocco, Tunisia and Senegal, they’re the biggest war games on the African continent. The event was postponed last year due to the pandemic and this iteration includes soldiers from the Netherlands, Italy, the UK, Canada and Brazil. One noticeable absence is Spain, which has participated in all 16 previous iterations. The underlying reason is that a good part of the exercise will take place in Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony that has long been disputed territory between Madrid, Rabat and a separatist Algerian-backed group known as the Polisario Front. Spain is reluctant to offer legitimacy to Morocco’s claim to the region, while Morocco was angered when a Polisario Front leader received medical treatment in Madrid. It’s all an unfortunate distraction from the African Lion exercise, which is crucial to maintaining security and peace in the region.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Hungary

Take to the streets

Budapest mayor Gergely Karácsony might have little say on Hungary’s close ties to China but he can make his disdain for the situation clear. After prime minister Viktor Orbán agreed to a new campus for the Shanghai-based Fudan University in Budapest, the mayor rechristened a series of streets in the capital to names including “Dalai Lama” (pictured) and “Free Hong Kong”. Karácsony clearly hit a nerve: the names were described as “disgusting” by China’s foreign ministry.

“It’s galling for China to have something in the streetscape that’s intended to humiliate them,” Deirdre Mask, author of The Address Book, tells The Monocle Minute. It’s hardly the first time that governments have used streets to make political points, says Mask, recalling a particular example in the 1990s. “The street outside the Nigerian embassy in New York was named after an activist assassinated during the country’s military dictatorship,” she adds. As for Budapest, don’t expect Karácsony to back down: his stance against the university is supported by 66 per cent of Hungarians.

Image: Getty Images

Business / Global

Working order

Workers of the world unite (online) today for the 109th annual meeting of the International Labour Organization (ILO). The brainchild of Woodrow Wilson, the ILO was founded in 1919 as an agency of the League of Nations and it lives on as the oldest specialised branch of its successor, the UN. It sprung from idealistic roots: the belief that social and economic justice could be achieved through political planning and the fair apportionment of good, honest work. The agenda for this year is not so different: even before the pandemic, stagnant wage growth and increased automation had begun to undermine the principle of material progress to which modern economic systems are inextricably tied. From today until 19 June, about 4,000 delegates – union representatives, politicians and employers from 187 member states – hope to navigate a path to economic recovery and protect workers’ rights in the process. Let’s hope some of the old agency’s new ideas work and can be gainfully employed.

Image: Arthur Martins, Spänning, Courtesy of Polestar

Design / Sweden

Powered up

Swedish electric car manufacturer Polestar launches its second automotive design competition today, soliciting entries from early-career designers and seasoned professionals on the theme of “progress”. It’s a broad subject and Polestar likes it that way: it is looking for ideas that innovate and offer up canny solutions. “In the past, we had one of our winners design an airship, another a boat [pictured],” Polestar’s head of design, Maximillian Missoni, tells The Monocle Minute. And more than just providing a trophy to the winning entrant, Missoni says that Polestar also helps to bring the concept to life. “In the past we have had winners that answer the brief in every aspect but might need help on the technical side of things,” he adds. “So we brought in a naval architect who could offer feedback on the boat; for the airship, a designer who worked on vertical takeoff crafts.” For Polestar, progress is a two-way street.

Image: Jeremy Coleman

M24 / The Menu

Where next for cheese?

How cultural differences shape styles of cheese in different parts of Europe, why American cheese deserves much more attention and what the future holds for dairy.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: The Entrepreneurs 4, 2021

Your future starts today. That’s the optimistic message that runs throughout the latest issue of The Entrepreneurs. In it we survey the best places to do business in 2021, from the cities bouncing back from the pandemic to the coastal technology hub riding the wave of success. Plus: start a hotel, open a shop and love the office again. Available at The Monocle Shop

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