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

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.

Building on more than 15 years of sustainability leadership, Walmart is doubling down on addressing the growing climate crisis by targeting zero emissions across the company's global operations by 2040. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are also committing to help protect, manage or restore at least 50 million acres of land and one million square miles of ocean by 2030 to help combat the cascading loss of nature threatening the planet.

One of the world's most famous political dissidents may die in a Russian prison this week.

Alexei Navalny has been on a hunger strike since March 31 over the authorities' refusal to let his own medical team examine him after he developed signs of tuberculosis. Now, one of his aides says Navalny is "close to death."

The fate of Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic — who was poisoned last summer, allegedly by state officials, treated in Germany, and then jailed upon his return to Russia — is being closely watched both inside and outside the country.

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How bad is the climate crisis? Every year, the UN's Emissions Gap Report shows a large gap between the trajectory we're on and the trajectory we ought to be on, explains climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert. "Every decade now is warmer than the decade before. And we're seeing the damage pile up," says Kolbert, whose latest book is Under A White Sky: The Nature of the Future. "We saw the tremendous wildfire season in California last fall. The hurricane season in the Gulf. These are all connected to climate change, and we're just going to keep seeing more of that." She spoke with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 16. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Can we fix the planet the same way we broke it?

Ian Bremmer and Bill Maher discussed the global leadership of the United States compared to that of China on a recent episode of Real Time. "The level of corruption in China, the level of corruption in China, even the buildings and the rails you talk about - the average building the Chinese build lasts for 20, 25 years. In the United States, it lasts for 40 to 50. There's a reason why we are still the world's most powerful country," Ian argued. "I'm just saying China's not eating our lunch - that's all."

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody, Ian Bremmer here, kicking off your beautiful spring week from New York City. A little Quick Take. I thought I'd talk today about Russia, going to be in the news this week. Putin doesn't like it when they're out of the news for too long, certainly plenty going on between the US and Russia right now.

I'd say, first of all, to start off, the relationship is in the toilet. We know this. It is the worst it's been since the early '80s. That was true even under Trump. Trump and Putin personally had a pretty good relationship, but Trump wasn't able to get anything really done for the Russians, because both the Republicans in Congress, key members of cabinet under Trump, massive amount of constraints on what Trump could actually do, whether it's trying to bring Russia back into the G7 or recognize Crimea as a part of Russia, or remove or reduce sanctions. None of that actually got done. In fact, the relationship deteriorated over the four years.

But now we've got Biden and the focus is of course, more on human rights. The focus is more on climate change, which means that Russia as a massive energy exporter and particularly in terms of their influence on Eastern Europe and Western Europe on the downstream for gas delivery, for example, something that Biden is much more focused on. So a lot more pressure on the Russians, and the Russians don't care. Their willingness to hit back and show that the Americans are not willing to take any significant risks to constrain the Russians is also fairly significant. And this is playing out in a number of ways.

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Pakistani radicals vs French cartoons: It's been a tumultuous week in Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city. After widespread protests broke out across the Muslim world late last year after Paris defended French publications' rights to publish satirical images of the Prophet Mohammad, the radical Pakistani Islamist group Tehrik-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), gave Pakistan's government until April 20 to expel the French ambassador, when it had planned nationwide demonstrations. When Prime Minister Imran Khan refused to meet their demands, more violence erupted across the country and authorities arrested the TLP leader — prompting TLP supporters to hit back by kidnapping six state security personnel in Lahore this past weekend. Authorities have now banned the TLP outright and are bracing for more violence in the coming days. France, meanwhile, has urged all of its citizens to leave Pakistan.

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