Tuesday. 8/6/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Fiona Wilson

Summit for nothing

From Japan’s point of view the last G7 in Biarritz in 2019 was a dud. For the first time since the group had started convening in 1975, there was no communiqué and the security issues that trouble East Asia barely got a mention. So Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga could be forgiven for having low expectations when he lands at Cornwall Airport Newquay for this weekend’s talking shop.

Suga has already met Joe Biden in Washington (pictured), which will help the Japanese leader – not a natural on the international stage – at his first G7. There is an added dimension this year: Boris Johnson has invited South Korea, Australia, India and South Africa as non-member guests. Relations between Japan and South Korea are at one of their sporadic low points as they trade barbs over wartime labour and Japan’s plan to discharge radioactive water from Fukushima. Japan has said it’s “not in the mood” for a sideline summit with South Korean president Moon Jae-in (in his final year) but there is talk of a trilateral meeting with the US, which is trying to get its two key Asian allies to play nicely together. That summit would probably be to discuss China, North Korea and regional co-operation.

Following his pledge to (almost) halve greenhouse emissions by 2030, Suga is also keen to take a leading role in the carbon-neutrality discussion. The UK, France and Germany are in turn looking to play a more proactive role in the Indo-Pacific region. British economist James O’Neill (who coined the term BRIC) once described the G7 as “an artefact of a bygone era”. The addition of some powerful guest countries is a move to counter that argument (or, as China’s Global Times newspaper described it, “more muscle to contain China”). The G7 is still an important date in the calendar and, with the G20 to follow in Rome in October, it should have more time for Asia this year.

Image: Alamy

Business / Switzerland

Investment high

Last year was a struggle for businesses the world over but the Swiss will take solace in the fact that foreign direct investment surged. According to consultancy company EY, such investments jumped 25 per cent last year, for a total of 91 projects, which is the highest level since 2011 and compares to a 13 per cent year-on-year decline across the rest of Europe combined. The reason is probably to do with Switzerland’s relatively stable political and regulatory climate that make it a safe harbour in uncertain times. Germans, typically more risk-averse, nearly doubled their investments in Switzerland (the Swiss returned the favour by investing mostly in Germany too). Will the foreign interest continue? It’s worth noting that the EY survey was carried out before the Swiss government ended negotiations with the EU on a broad framework agreement this year, plunging its trade ties with the 27-nation bloc into a period of uncertainty. Not the best look for a country considered a safe harbour.

Image: Courtesy of OMA

Urbanism / USA

French opening

Paris’s Centre Pompidou will open its first US branch (pictured) in Jersey City in 2024, contributing to a plan by the city’s mayor, Steven Fulop, to regenerate the Journal Square area into an arts and culture centre capable of drawing visitors from Lower Manhattan (a short 15-minute train ride away).

The centre will be located in the 1912-built Pathside building; architecture firm OMA will help transform it into a space worthy of hosting exhibitions of works chosen from the Pompidou’s 120,000-piece collection of modern and contemporary art. It’s a significant investment and gamble for the city, which will pay up to $6m (€4.9m) for the five-year contract with Pompidou and cover the estimated renovation costs of up to $30m (€24.6m). For the French institution the location is a gamble too, with the main museum in Paris to close for major renovations just ahead of the Jersey opening. Done right, however, it could herald a bright future for both.

Image: Getty Images

Elections / Germany

State expectations

Germany’s ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) are celebrating a far better than expected result in state elections in Saxony-Anhalt this weekend, the last such regional poll before federal elections in September. The party garnered 37 per cent of the state vote, which is 16 percentage points better than the far-right Alternative for Germany, which had hoped to become the state’s largest party. Armin Laschet, the CDU’s candidate to succeed Angela Merkel after she retires in September, hailed the result as a “bulwark against extremism” and no doubt hopes for a bump in national polls (the CDU is polling nationally at about 25 per cent). But Laschet should know that many of Saxony-Anhalt’s voters said they chose CDU because of its popular state premier, Reiner Haseloff (pictured, on right, with Laschet), who has won plaudits for representing eastern German concerns that often go unheeded at the national level. Laschet has yet to prove that he can take the pulse of the nation in a similar fashion.

Image: 20th Century Studios

Cinema / Global

Bright lights

Film festival season is back and this time it will not be virtual. The Berlinale’s second phase this year starts tomorrow [Wednesday] in an outdoor-only format running until 20 June. And beyond that all eyes are on Cannes. The festival, planned for 6 to 17 July, released its line-up last week. Among the highlights is a new and typically subversive Paul Verhoeven film, Benedetta, set in the 17th century and starring Virginie Efira as a nun who falls in love with another woman. We also look forward to The French Dispatch (pictured) by Wes Anderson and Leos Carax’s musical romance Annette. “Cannes is bulging this year with a record of 2,300 films and 65 titles in competition, 20 per cent more than in 2019,” film critic Karen Krizanovich told Monocle 24’s The Globalist. With healthy cinema box-office numbers in recent weeks and film festivals returning to the calendar, the industry has reasons to smile again.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Eureka 247: Uncle – rethinking city living

Ryan Prince is the founder of Uncle, a London property company that aims to make renting in the city a more desirable and stress-free experience. Prince is a past guest on The Entrepreneurs and speaker at Monocle’s Berlin Quality of Life Conference. With all the headlines about people fleeing for the countryside, host Daniel Bach visited Prince at Uncle’s London building to catch up and discuss how Uncle is evolving to cater to city-dwellers.

Monocle Films / New Zealand

Christchurch School: sunny modernism

We explore a New Zealand take on mid-century modern architecture that fused British brutalism with a Scandinavian aesthetic. The simple construction methods of the Christchurch School’s creative homes have endured changing tastes – and earthquakes too.

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