Thursday 18 January 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 18/1/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

In the hot seat: Arancha González at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting

Image: World Economic Forum

Affairs / Arancha González

Rocking the vote

There are two big things happening in 2024: votes and bombs. Both of these issues have the potential to overlap with each other and have far-reaching consequences. We have seen how the war between Russia and Ukraine has had a systemic effect on food and fuel markets. Now, in the Middle East, we are seeing how war affects global supply chains and how trade restrictions in the Red Sea are influencing inflation.

More than half of the world’s population will head to the polls in 2024. While this busy calendar is a good thing, we need to ensure that the election processes are fair and lead to peaceful transitions of power. It is essential to instill more confidence in global markets, which will, in turn, help steer the world economy in a better direction. From India to Mexico and Indonesia to the EU and US, this is a huge year for democracy. It’s important to trust the choices of the electorate and make sure that we contribute to the process with rich debates.

The past four years have proved that when there is a collective threat to humanity, governments react. It’s something that we experienced during the coronavirus pandemic. But when you’re in the middle of multiple conflicts, there’s the danger of normalising risks rather than taking care of them. We need to build a shared sense of these issues. The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos is an important place to inspire everyone to act on them – and in a more co-operative manner.

Arancha González is the dean of the Paris School of International Affairs and was Spain’s minister of foreign affairs between 2020 and 2021. As told to Monocle’s Carlota Rebelo in Davos. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Beyond the Headlines

Business / Japan

Air apparent

Japan Airlines (JAL) has appointed its first female president. The promotion of Mitsuko Tottori, who joined JAL in 1985, is a significant milestone in a country where companies are under pressure to have more diverse workforces and reduce its gender pay gap, which is the biggest of all G7 nations. JAL is aiming to increase the proportion of women in management positions to 30 per cent by 2026. It is already on track: the latest figure, from March 2023 is 22.8 per cent. The appointment of Tottori, who started her career as a cabin attendant and has slowly risen through the ranks, is also a testament to the importance of nurturing talent from within. Tottori will begin her new role on 1 April.

For more on JAL’s new president, tune in to ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle Radio at 07.00 London time.

Family affair: Emmanuel Macron pledges new parental leave reforms

Image: Getty Images

Society / France

Renaissance man

According to the latest annual census by the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies, France recorded 678,000 births in 2023, which is the lowest number since the Second World War. To counteract this, Emmanuel Macron has promised to reform the country’s parental leave plan to offer new parents more stability.

He also said that women who need to take prolonged absences during pregnancy will receive more support. While Macron has yet to reveal further details, France has one of the most generous health and childcare systems in Europe, as well as benefits and tax incentives for parents. Should the reforms prove successful, they could set an example of how to manage these difficult conditions in the future – and provide French parents with more security in the long term.

On a roll: the El Chepe train winds its way from Chihuahua to Los Mochas

Image: Getty Images

Rail / Mexico

Back on track

Mexico’s railway infrastructure, which spans mountains and deserts, and connects the country to the US, is used almost exclusively for freight transport. Now, however, the Mexican government is looking to expand its passenger routes. Earlier this week the transport ministry announced that it had received five proposals from interested parties to boost passenger transport across the country.

While officials did not identify the companies that had registered interest, international railway firms, including Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC), have reacted positively to the idea. The ministry’s announcement follows a decree passed in late 2023 that called for operators to outline how their freight railways could be adapted to carry passengers. A coast-to-coast rail line was launched in December along with the so-called “Mayan Train”, which connects tourist hotspot Cancún to the southern state of Chiapas. Things are certainly picking up on Mexico’s iron tracks.

Beyond the Headlines

Q&A / Ross Macmillan

Runway success

Paris Fashion Week is under way but it’s not just the runway crowd descending on the French capital. Beyond the glamorous luxury shows, Paris at this time of year also attracts independent fashion retailers who attend trade events such as Welcome Edition, a showroom for contemporary menswear labels. Ross Macmillan is CEO of Smoothlink, a China-based clothing manufacturer that makes bags and apparel for fashion brands including Kestin, Universal Works, YMC and A Cold Wall. Monocle spoke to Macmillan at his home in Hong Kong, just hours before he flew to Paris.

Why will you be in Paris?
People are beginning to pay attention to Smoothlink. We have great clients on our roster and we’re helping brands build, so we want to go and meet people. It’s a marketing and networking exercise. It has also been five years since I’ve been at Paris Fashion Week.

It’s more than just a runway then?
Paris Fashion Week is not a suppliers’ conference. It’s also the time when brands present their latest collections, either independently through their own showroom or through their wholesale agency or distribution partner. It gets everyone in one place. I know that I’m going to be walking down the street and bumping into people that I haven’t seen in years, which is fantastic.

Will you attend any of the official events?
A launch party for Kestin Hare’s first Henri-Lloyd collection. Kestin was handpicked to be the creative director when the brand relaunched under new ownership. He came to us and said, “Look, I’d like you to help on this new project.” Half of what they’re going to show at this event is made by us. From a manufacturing point of view, the amount of effort that has been put into it is unbelievable. We’ll also sit down with two new clients to talk to them about future collections.

Image: Alamy

Monocle Radio / The Urbanist

Expo ’70 Commemorative Park, Osaka

Tomás Pinheiro discusses the legacy of Asia’s first world’s fair and what lies ahead for Osaka Expo 2025.


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