Monday 13 November 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 13/11/2023

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Image: Getty Images

Affairs / Gregory Scruggs

Byte of the action

At a time of geopolitical volatility, this week’s meeting between Xi Jinping and Joe Biden at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) summit is undoubtedly a positive sign. But focusing exclusively on the Xi-Biden tête-à-tête misses the bulk of the story in San Francisco.

Biden should be commended for expending the political capital to host Xi – hostility towards China is one of the few shared sentiments between Democrats and Republicans. In turn, Xi’s willingness to make the journey onto US territory is a gracious move that reflects Beijing and Washington’s continued rapprochement this year. For now, it seems that diplomatic envoys are more likely to cross the Pacific than warplanes – and looks as though the leaders of the world’s two most powerful countries intend to keep it that way.

Though the cameras will be trained on Xi and Biden, 19 other heads of state at the annual Apec summit will be eager to strike deals. Since its launch in 1993, the forum has succeeded in advancing free-trade policies, even as anti-globalisation sentiments have taken hold. After 30 years spent dealing with operations at cargo ports and working to streamline business visas, Apec is now grappling with an entirely new arena: digital trade.

How to regulate the movement of bits and bytes across borders is one of the 21st century’s biggest dilemmas. Delegates at the summit will find plenty of eager interlocutors to speak about the topic among the San Francisco technology crowd. Apec members such as Singapore, Chile, New Zealand and South Korea are all signatories to a newly inked digital free-trade pact. And the White House’s choice of venue in its host year is a pointed symbol – when it comes to the digital economy, Silicon Valley remains at the heart of global decision-making.

Gregory Scruggs is a journalist based in Seattle and a regular Monocle contributor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


Diplomacy / Turkey

Shifting sands

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s proposed trip to Germany this Friday is in doubt following backlash over his recent stance on the Israel-Hamas war. During an address to the Turkish parliament in October, he announced the cancellation of a meeting with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, condemned Israel’s actions in Gaza and referred to Hamas fighters as “liberators”. Several German politicians have since expressed their concerns about Erdogan’s planned visit this week. They include the general secretary of the Free Democratic Party (FDP), Bijan Djir-Sarai, who called for German chancellor Olaf Scholz to “question” welcoming the Turkish president to Berlin. Amid the controversy, Erdogan’s comments mark a shift in policy on the world stage. Having carved out a role as a neutral mediator in recent international conflicts, it seems that Turkey is now looking to strengthen relations with Middle Eastern nations.

Eye test at Saturdays

Image: Muhammad Fadli

Business / Jakarta

Sight for sore eyes

Eyewear company Saturdays is one of Indonesia’s most recognisable brands. Founded in Jakarta in 2016 by Rama Suparta and Andrew Kandolha, it has distinguished itself through its affordable premium glasses and its approach to bricks-and-mortar retail. Saturdays operates 47 outposts across Indonesia, half of which contain a café – part of the company’s effort to challenge the notion that a trip to the optician is a necessary, but not necessarily enjoyable, errand. “For us, it’s part of the experience,” says Suparta.

The company’s swift expansion is the result of a smart business strategy: its shops offer free eye tests, encouraging passers-by to drop in for a check-up without any obligation to make a purchase. At the height of the coronavirus pandemic it trialled home try-ons, in which opticians made house calls to conduct eye exams and let customers try on frames. It was so popular that the company has continued to offer the service. Saturdays will stick with what works and isn’t afraid to try new things. So far, this has paid off.

For more on Saturdays and other businesses shaping the heart of entrepreneurship in Jakarta, pick up a copy of the November issue of Monocle.

Image: Alamy

Retail / France

Smooth selling

The sale of Paris’s Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville – the second oldest shopping destination in the city after Le Bon Marché – by the Galeries Lafayette group to the Société des Grands Magasin (SGM) has been finalised. Though the move has been heralded as the end of an era by many Parisians, it is not necessarily bad news.

SGM, a small, Lyon-based real-estate company that specialises in the rehabilitation of city-centre shops, has already bought several of the company’s regional branches. With an increasing number of department stores struggling to make ends meet, SGM looks like it will become a greater force in the French market in the years to come, playing an important role in deciding which high streets survive – and which don’t.

Beyond the Headlines

In print / ‘The Entrepreneurs’ Issue 07

In on the action

For the latest edition of The Entrepreneurs annual business handbook, the Monocle team travels to the UAE. We head to the desert just outside Abu Dhabi to visit a vast film set that is becoming a trusted shooting location for Hollywood, Bollywood and beyond.

Subscribe to read the full article here or log in to your account if you are already a subscriber.

City set in the desert

Image: Dan Wilton

Buggy tour

Image: Dan Wilton

Mark Whitehead, CEO of Twofour54

Image: Dan Wilton

Courtyard on The Souq set

Image: Dan Wilton

Monocle Radio / The Big Interview

Margaret MacMillan

The celebrated Canadian historian sits down with Andrew Mueller to discuss her bestselling books, the history of warfare and the challenge that Vladimir Putin poses to the world order.


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