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What Will Happen to U.K. Trade, Post-Brexit?

As James Surowiecki writes in this week’s issue of the The New Yorker, Leave campaigners hope they can jettison Europen Union provisions they don’t like, such as free movement of labor, but maintain access to the EU for trade.

Surowiecki thinks they’ve got a tough road to hoe when it comes to working out new trade trade pacts with their much larger former partner:

As Hollande’s comments suggest, the negotiations over a new trade deal won’t be about economics alone. They’ll also be about politics. European leaders, in deciding how they should treat the U.K., will be thinking, in part, about Brexit’s effect on the stability of the E.U. itself, which they very much want to preserve. Studies show that international institutions work best, and are most effective, when members feel that leaving has a high cost. So, even if driving a hard bargain with the U.K. does some damage to the E.U.’s economy, that may be a price worth paying, in order to show Euroskeptics everywhere that leaving has consequences. “You’re willing to do things for family members simply because they’re family,” Véron told me. “But when you’re no longer in the family you’re out.” In choosing Brexit, British voters decided that ideological considerations trumped economic ones. They can hardly complain if Europe makes the same choice.

Watch this space.

Single, Individually Wrapped Bananas for Sale in Singapore

IMG 0342

Spotted recently at a 7-Eleven here in the city-state: bananas, in individual plastic bags, bearing the words “single and available.”

The sunglasses.

The plastic bag, despite — as a colleague pointed out on Twitter — the fact that bananas are naturally individually wrapped.

The “tip” at the bottom about when best to consume bananas according to ripeness.

It’s all too much.

In This Week’s Newley’s Notes: Grab v. Uber; Why England Lose; Illiberalism on the Rise; Amazonian Book Nerds; Awesome Fireworks Packaging

The latest edition of my email newsletter has gone out to subscribers. It’s pasted in below.

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Hi friends,

Thanks for reading Newley’s Notes, a weekly* newsletter in which I share my WSJ stories, posts from my blog, and various interesting links.

*Okay, make that mostly weekly! I have been traveling and generally busy in recent weeks, and thus have missed sending these missives out on occasion. But I shall endeavor to do better.

What I wrote in The Wall Street Journal

Uber Rival Grab Gains Ground in Southeast Asia – a look at how Singapore-based Grab, an Uber competitor operating in six Southeast Asian countries, is doing in its battle with the U.S. behemoth. The story begins:

SINGAPORE—Uber Technologies Inc. is locked in major tussles with local rivals in China and India, but a homegrown upstart is also grabbing an advantage in the race for another Asia prize.

A startup called Grab is winning ride-hailing turf in Southeast Asia—home to 600 million people, almost double the population of the U.S. The startup serves more cities in the region than Uber and, according to mobile-app analytics firm App Annie, is beating the world’s most valuable startup in the race for users here.

Click through for a graphic and photos. There’s also a video online here; you may recognize the narrator’s voice.

Indian Internet Startups Face Money Crunch – The story begins:

Investors’ enthusiasm for Indian startups continues to wane.

Private-equity and venture-capital funds raised by Internet companies in the world’s second-most-populous country fell 56% to $528 million in the three months ended June 30.

That is a sharp drop from the $1.19 billion raised in the previous quarter and $1.3 billion a year earlier, according to a research report from Jefferies India.

What I wrote at Newley.com

Why You Shouldn’t be Surprised When England Lose – I posted this item a few hours before they kicked off against Iceland…and promptly lost. From the post:

Here’s why you shouldn’t be surprised that the England national team aren’t more successful than they are.

Are you ready?

Here it is:

They’re actually not a global footballing power.

(Between the loss and Brexit, “This has been the worst week to be English since the Second World War,” as one Briton told The WSJ.)

5 items that are worth your time this week:

1) Speaking of which, Englishman John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News, reflects on Brexit:

The great sweep of economic history is a series of “rises” and “falls”—from the fall of Rome to the rise of China. The intriguing episodes that spark the “what ifs” of history come lower down—when a medium-size power suddenly reverses an inevitable-seeming trajectory. That’s what Britain did under Margaret Thatcher and her successors: a crumbling country unexpectedly overturning years of genteel decline to become Europe’s most cosmopolitan liberal entrepôt. My fear is this revival ended on June 23, 2016.

2) Meanwhile, Sohrab Ahmari’s recent “Illiberalism: The Worldwide Crisis” – written, as it happens, before Brexit even occurred – is worth a read. It begins:

According to the bland conventional wisdom, Americans frustrated by the failure of the establishment to address issues like immigration and economic inequality have turned to an unlikely pair of political outsiders, a New York developer-turned-reality-TV-star and a Vermont socialist, to set things right. This account is true as far as it goes, but it is also hopelessly parochial and inadequate to the scope of the changes afoot. Trumpism (and Bernie Sanders-ism) are but the American symptoms of a global phenomenon: the astonishing rise of illiberal movements of the far right and far left.

3) Amazon is said to be run by super-smart analytic types who live and die by spreadsheets. But here’s a look at a decidedly right-brained group within the tech titan: the Amazon Book Reviewers team.

4) “The History of Urbanization, 3700 BC – 2000 AD” is a video charting, in just over three minutes, the rise of global cities through the millennia. Very cool.

5) This amazing collection of photos of Fourth of July fireworks packaging makes me miss America so much.

Have a great week!

@Newley

P.S. If someone forwarded you this email, you can subscribe here.

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By Me Monday: How Singapore’s Grab is Battling Uber Here in Southeast Asia

The story begins:

SINGAPORE—Uber Technologies Inc. is locked in major tussles with local rivals in China and India, but a homegrown upstart is also grabbing an advantage in the race for another Asia prize.

A startup called Grab is winning ride-hailing turf in Southeast Asia—home to 600 million people, almost double the population of the U.S. The startup serves more cities in the region than Uber and, according to mobile-app analytics firm App Annie, is beating the world’s most valuable startup in the race for users here.

The region’s ride-hailing market is forecast to grow more than five times to $13.1 billion by 2025 from $2.5 billion last year, according to a recent report on Southeast Asia’s internet economy conducted by Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Singapore state-investment firm Temasek Holdings.

There’s also a video, embedded at the top of the post, in the story, and online here. (You may recognize the narrator’s voice.)

I last wrote about Grab — previously known as GrabTaxi — when they teamed up with fellow ride-sharing firms Lyft and Ola, and when they raised new funds last year.

England Lose to Iceland — But Then, You Expected That

Were you shocked the other day when England lost 2-1 to Iceland?

Of course not, because you read my post just a few hours before kickoff.

Just saying.

Great Wall of China and South China Sea: Historical Parallels

2016 07 01 South China Sea

Highly recommended: The WSJ‘s Andrew Browne on parallels between China’s Great Wall, which was erected at a time of debate about the country’s role in the world, and their current claims in the South China Sea:

Echoes of this history reverberate today in the South China Sea, where China is building massive fortifications — artificial islands dredged from the seabed — to help defend a “nine-dash line” claim that encircles almost the entire waterway and reaches almost 1,000 miles from China’s coastline.

U.S. Adm. Harry Harris rails against the man-made islands as a “Great Wall of Sand.” Defense Secretary Ash Carter warns that China risks building a “Great Wall of self-isolation” through actions that have alarmed its neighbors.

In a matter of days, a United Nations-backed court in The Hague is expected to rule on a challenge to China’s claim brought by the Philippines. The decision will address an issue that has preoccupied Chinese dynasties since antiquity: Where does China end?

This has infuriated Chinese leaders; the presumptuousness of foreign jurists sitting in judgment upon what China regards as a matter of Chinese sovereignty is intolerable. Beijing has boycotted the proceedings.

Yet there’s an even more fundamental issue at play, one that dominated the debate in the old Ming court and that has rumbled on ever since: How should China conduct its relations with the world?

Image: Wikipedia.

Why You Shouldn’t be Surprised When England Lose

2016 06 27 england iceland euro

In about five hours England play Iceland in a Euro 2016 final 16 game. England may not lose this match, but they will almost certainly not win the tournament.

Here’s why you shouldn’t be surprised that the England national team aren’t more successful than they are.

Are you ready?

Here it is:

They’re actually not a global footballing power.

Now, this may come as a surprise, given that the guy who coached the soccer team at your high school had an English accent, as do many of the pundits who commentate on football games on TV. And yes, England is home to world’s most popular league.

2016 06 27 england crest

In addition, as British people may remind you, England invented the game and in 1966 won the World Cup — though it was at home in England and the team benefited from a dubious refereeing decision.

In the half century since then, however, they have won…not a single title.

The closest they came was making it to the World Cup semi-final in 1990 — a benchmark even the U.S. nearly achieved in 2002, when Gregg Berhalter* would have scored had it not been for a Torsten Frings handball that went unpunished.

But I digress.

Among the factors I have heard people give for England’s failure to win tournaments:

  • The Premier League is too fast-paced and physically demanding
  • There’s no winter break, so players can’t recuperate properly
  • There are too many foreigners playing in the Premier League, so English players don’t get a chance to develop
  • Highly paid players are more devoted to their clubs than to England
  • The youth team coaching isn’t good enough, so players don’t reach their full potential
  • Previous coaches, like Fabio Capello, were too strict or didn’t understand English culture or communicate with their players
  • English players typically play their best in cold weather; they can’t win in the heat.
  • They’re just so unlucky, with inevitable pre-tournament injuries
  • Penalties! They’re a crapshoot!
  • The English media are too hard on players, who then crack under the pressure of carrying a nation’s weight on their shoulders
  • Wives and girlfriends coming along to tournaments distract the players

And I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if another reason is added to the list after this tournament: Brexit somehow distracted the players, or sapped the fans of their enthusiasm.

But, as some have pointed out, England only under-achieve if you think they should do better.

I don’t. They do about as well as you could expect.

When you think England, don’t think Brazil, Germany, or Italy.

Think Portugal.

In other words: pretty good, but not absolutely top-tier.

Let’s look at their Fifa world rankings since 1993:

2016 06 27 england fifa ranking

So, they’re now ranked 11th in the world, and their average ranking since 1993 is ten. That’s pretty good! But it doesn’t make them elite.

Other sides that have won the World Cup once, like England, include France, which won in 1998 and have an average ranking of nine, and Spain, which won in 2010 and has an average ranking of five. Both are better than England.

What about the big boys?

Brazil have won five World Cups. This is what their ranking — which averages out to three over the years — looks like:

2016 06 27 brazil fifa ranking

Germany (average ranking: five) and Italy (average ranking: seven) have won four times each. This is what their rankings look like:

2016 06 27 germany fifa ranking

2016 06 27 italy fifa ranking

Portugal, which have an average ranking of 11, are much more like England:

2016 06 27 portugal fifa rankings

So, again: England don’t underperform. They perform as they always have.

They’re basically Portugal, except they won the World Cup fifty years ago. And they don’t have a Cristiano Ronaldo.

*My own personal footballing claim to fame: In a college game against the University of North Carolina, Gregg Berhalter scored a penalty on me. I dove the right way, guessing the left footer would blast it to my left, and came absolutely nowhere near it.

Singapore Taxi Hack: Mirror for Passengers to Check Oncoming Traffic

Singapore taxi mirror

I spotted this clever feature in a taxi cab here in Singapore recently. Had never seen anything like it.

As you can see in the image above, the car had a mirror affixed to the outside of the rear seat passenger side door. When passengers get out, they can use it to check for oncoming cars or motorbikes.

Simple and clever.

I shared the photo on Twitter, and users pointed out such gadgets would be useful in far flung places like India, the U.K. and Uganda.

So there you go: Safety innovation, straight out of tiny Singapore!

Book Notes — ‘Freedom,’ By Jonathan Franzen

Note: I have long kept written notes on index cards about the books I read. I decided to share some of these thoughts here, and will be posting them, one by one on individual books, in no particular order. I’ll group them all together on a central page later. Thanks to Derek Sivers for the inspiration.

2016 06 22 franzen purity

Purity
By Jonathan Franzen
Published: 2015
Read: April 2016
ISBN: 0374239215
Amazon link
Rating: 9/10

Brief recap: A novel about youth, ambition, and desire, packed with sharp cultural observations. I loved it, as I have loved most of Franzen’s fiction.

My notes:

  • The novel follows protagonist Pip Tyler as she seeks out direction in her life and tries to negotiate her relationship with her mother – and her father, who she didn’t know growing up.

  • While the novel is nearly 600 pages long, I found it to be extremely fast-paced, and loved the intricacy of the plot, with scences boucning between decades, both in the U.S. and in Germany.

  • I liked Franzen’s description of the geography in Bolivia, where part of the novel takes place.

  • I can’t excerpt it here because it present a major spolier, but the language describing one key character’s sudden demise was striking. I read that passage again and again.

  • My sense is that if you liked Franzen’s earlier works (as I did), such as “The Corrections” and “Freedoms,” you’ll like this one, too.

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