The Great Escape? Trump and Abe at Mar-A-Lago

Today, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe heads to Mar-a-Lago for a meeting with Donald Trump. The chance to commiserate over their shared love of golf and koi fishcouldn’t come at a better time. Trump is reeling from an investigation of his personal lawyer and bracing himself for a battering of a book release, while Abe is embroiled in a corruption scandal that has sent his poll numbers tumbling to record lows. But relations between the US and Japan have been testy lately, and Trump’s distrust of America’s closest Asian ally goes back decades.


As Abe touches down in Florida, my fellow Signalista Gabe Lipton (@gflipton) sees three areas to watch:

Tariffs: Japan is the only major US ally that didn’t win an exemption to the Trump administration’s new steel and aluminum tariffs. The White House wants to use that as leverage to reduce the trade deficit between the two countries ($55 billion in Japan’s favor in 2016). So long as Abe can present concessions — for example, on autos or currency manipulation — that allows The Donald a “Tweetable” win, this is the area where we’re most likely to see some progress.

Trade Deals: President Trump pulled out of the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) in his first days in office, dealing a blow to Japan both economically (about 2.5 percent of GDP by 2030) and politically — Abe had stuck his neck out in order to reach a domestically unpopular deal that Trump then blew up. When it comes to trade deals, the two countries simply aren’t aligned: Japan wants the US back in TPP, while Trump seeks a bilateral free trade agreement that gives Washington more leverage. So while both sides will try to pitch deeper economic cooperation, they have different visions of what that means.

North Korea: The most important issue for the Japanese prime minister will be making sure his voice is heard in any diplomacy between the US and North Korea. So far, the Trump administration has largely shut Japan out of its overtures to Pyongyang. A nightmare scenario for Abe would be a US-North Korea agreement that rids Kim of the long-range missiles that can hit the US, while allowing him to keep short and medium-range weapons that threaten Japan.

Deadly Sand Traps: On the other hand, high politics aside, not falling into a sand-trap would also be a basic win for Prime Minister Abe this time around.

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan announced a $1 billion, four-year commitment of additional support to address economic and racial inequalities in our local communities that have been intensified by the global pandemic.

Learn more.

Have you heard? The Republican president of the United States proposed a plan for "partial basic income" and his plan passed the House of Representatives. In 1969.

President's Nixon's plan, which he called "the most significant piece of social legislation in our nation's history," died in the Senate and never became law. It hasn't really made a comeback in the US. But the idea of "guaranteed basic income" is already back in the news in Europe, because income inequality — exacerbated by COVID-19 — will become increasingly hard for the world's political leaders to ignore.

More Show less

Poland's election set: After a grueling political fight between the far-right Law and Justice Party, which heads the government, and opposition parties on how and when to hold a presidential election during a global pandemic, Poland says the ballot will now go ahead on June 28. For the incumbent government, led by President Andrzej Duda, the election is a chance to further solidify its agenda of social conservatism and an alarming reworking of the country's democratic institutions. While April polls strongly favored Duda, the pandemic-induced economic crisis has dented his ratings in recent weeks, giving centrist candidates a slightly better chance to take the nation's top job. Indeed, in last year's election, the Law and Justice party won only a very shaky parliamentary majority and needs Duda to stay at the helm, not least in order to pass controversial judicial reforms that the EU has long-deemed as undemocratic.

More Show less

The coronavirus crisis has clobbered all European economies, but most have avoided a severe spike in unemployment. That's in part because of government programs that directly subsidize workers' wages while also incentivizing employers to keep workers on the payroll by reducing their hours. This approach has shielded much of Europe from the kind of unemployment calamity that's plaguing the United States, where the jobless rate has increased sixfold since January and is now more than double that of the Euro area. Here's a look at how European job markets have fared in the time of coronavirus.

As protests over the police killing of George Floyd raged across the country, there have been more than 125 instances of journalists being shot with rubber bullets by police, arrested, or in some cases assaulted by protesters while covering the unrest.

Foreign news crews from Germany and Australia have been caught up in the crackdown. Australia's Prime Minister has even called for an investigation. Some of these journalists have simply been caught in the crossfire during surges of unrest, but video and photographic evidence reveals cases where police have deliberately targeted reporters doing their jobs.

More Show less