Friday 10 March 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 10/3/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Christopher Lord

All at sea

For the past 18 months, shipyards in the US and UK have been waiting on a massive new order. The Aukus security pact agreed in 2021 will see the two nations equip Australia with its first fleet of nuclear submarines – a pointed act of deterrence to Chinese ambitions in the Pacific. What has been less obvious, however, is exactly how and where these new vessels will be built. On Monday, representatives from the three countries will meet in San Diego to unveil the plan. The situation has underlined a shortfall in boat-building capacity among the allies, which has some defence chiefs worried.

Last month the Pentagon’s naval secretary, Carlos Del Toro, warned that China now has more warships than the US and more shipyards with greater capacity. “They have a larger fleet now so they’re deploying it globally,” he said, stressing the need for his own forces to keep pace. America’s boatbuilders are already stretched, working at full tilt to fulfil its own naval ambitions. Across the Atlantic, some of the UK’s historic shipyards have closed in recent decades, putting a squeeze on capacity and available talent. The expectation is that Australia’s new submarines now won’t be delivered until before the 2030s at the earliest.

This week, I’ve been reporting in Rhode Island, where sections of the new Columbia-class submarines (a render of which is pictured) will be built. Last year an Aukus delegation toured that shipyard, which is set to expand. These are green shoots of growth in the industry. But Monday’s Aukus announcement needs a proper vision for how capacity can meet demand and be co-ordinated between the allies. A rumoured plan for Australian workers to come to US shipyards to learn how to build its own nuclear submarines is a step in the right direction. The race is on for who will rule the waves.

Christopher Lord is Monocle’s US editor. For more of his reporting, plus our take on everything from diplomacy to design, subscribe to Monocle magazine today.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / France & UK

Overdue rendezvous

French president Emmanuel Macron welcomes his British counterpart Rishi Sunak (pictured, right, with Macron) to Paris today in the first Anglo-French summit since 2018. This is an important test of the two countries’ relations: issues such as Brexit and migration have sown discord in the past few years but, as the leaders of Western Europe’s two largest military powers, Macron and Sunak will have to find common ground and display a united front in the face of Russia’s war in Ukraine. The pair are expected to discuss how best to find an end to the conflict, as well as how to put pressure on Vladimir Putin to resume Russia’s participation in the New Start nuclear arms reduction treaty. It’s a good first step but it might take more than a cordial meeting to forge a meaningful entente.

Image: Alamy

Energy / EU & Canada

Welcome boost

Green-hydrogen energy may soon be coming to Europe. After a brief visit to Canada this week, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced the development of a hydrogen supply chain to satisfy Europe’s appetite for energy amid the ongoing war in Ukraine. Exports are slated to begin in 2025. This comes as the continent takes steps towards developing a green-hydrogen network.

At the start of Europe’s recent energy crisis, Germany and other EU members looked to the US and Canada for natural gas but Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau (pictured, centre, with Von der Leyen) wasn’t able to develop the necessary export infrastructure at the time. Both the EU nations and Canada will be hoping that the new deal gives the partnership renewed energy.

Image: Getty Images

Sport / Thailand & Cambodia

Strong words

What’s in a name? Well, there’s a scuffle ahead of May’s Southeast Asian Games over what to call the region’s ancient martial art. Currently Thailand’s muay thai team plans to boycott the competition over a Cambodian claim that the sport – to which they also lay claim – should be known as kun khmer.

To complicate matters further Laotians dub it muay lao. Now cooler heads are starting to prevail as Cambodia’s strongman prime minister, Hun Sen, suggested that the jostling nations jointly register their names for the sport, as well as applying for shared intangible heritage status with Unesco to put the issue to bed. “Joint registration with Unesco isn’t unprecedented,” says the Bangkok Post. “This month Thailand joined four other nations in nominating kebaya, a traditional clothing worn by millions of women in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, as an addition to Unesco’s intangible heritage list.” Why spar over difference? Sport – even the combative kind – is much better at bringing people together.

Culture / Italy

Home strip

Despite the ubiquity of social media, comic books are still a success story and their popularity is booming across the globe. On Saturday an institution dedicated to comic publishing will reopen in the Italian city of Pordenone. Formerly known as the Palazzo Arti Fumetto Friuli, which hosted temporary exhibitions, the venue has been re-dubbed the PAFF! International Museum of Comic Art.

As well as an overhaul of the interiors by Corde Architetti, the museum has gained an impressive permanent collection that includes 200 original strips by cartoonists such as Italy’s Andrea Pazienza and Peanuts creator Charles M Schulz. “The collection is truly unique in the world,” says the museum’s curator, Luca Raffaelli. “It allows the visitor to find connections and be able to understand comic art’s journey through its different formats.”

Monocle 24 / The Entrepreneurs

Byborre and Nike ACG

Tom Edwards meets Borre Akkersdijk, co-founder of Byborre, a textile studio based in the Netherlands that specialises in sustainable and innovative fabric design. Plus: how Nike’s iconic swoosh almost got in the way of its expansion into the outdoor clothing market.

Monocle Films / France

Escape to la campagne: Normandy

Pierre-Edouard Robine traded city life to rediscover his farming roots in 2016. Since then, he has built a sparkling wine business and forages for Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris, alongside tending to his small herd of cattle. We travelled to his farm in La Courbe, Normandy, to lend a hand with tending the land and hear about the benefits of rural living.


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