EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 29/05/2020

File:Protest against police violence - Justice for George Floyd, May 26, 2020 11.jpg

The Guardian – Chris McGreal et al. / George Floyd killing: fires erupt in Minneapolis as US rocked by third night of protests

  • Cities across the US were convulsed by protests on Thursday night over the police killing of George Floyd, a 46-year old black man, as demonstrators stormed the police headquarters of the officers involved in his death in Minneapolis and Trump threatened to use violence to suppress the unrest.
  • As demonstrations against police brutality against black Americans spread to other parts of the US including New York, Denver, Chicago and Oakland, dozens of businesses were burned and looted in the Midwestern city. Floyd died in police custody after a white officer handcuffed him but then kneeled on his neck for several minutes as Floyd pleaded that he “could not breathe”.
  • “These THUGS are dishonouring the memory of George Floyd,” Mr. Trump wrote of the demonstrators, “and I won’t let that happen” adding, “any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
  • Trump has previously avoided commenting on incidents of police brutality against black people. Twitter hid Trump’s post, saying that it violated their policies “regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line”.
  • The Washington Post – Holly Bailey et al. / Chaotic Minneapolis protests spread amid emotional calls for justice, peace

Foreign Policy – Keith Johnson and Robbie Gramer / Hong Kong ensnared in U.S.-China showdown

  • The Trump administration’s declaration on Wednesday that the United States no longer considers Hong Kong  autonomous from China, given Beijing’s increasingly aggressive policies there, could pave the way for reprisals from Washington and a potentially dramatic reshaping of Asia’s economic geography.
  • The American position raises two major questions: Will the Trump administration seek to hammer Hong Kong as a way to pressure Beijing, and who will ultimately pay the price for such measures? Bristling at what it sees as continued Chinese aggression, the administration aimed to deter Beijing from undermining what had been Hong Kong’s special status. 
  • Hong Kong isn’t quite as important economically to China as it was when the British handed over the former colony in 1997, when it alone accounted for more than 16 percent of greater China’s GDP. The number today is less than 3 percent. But it still plays a crucial role in giving Chinese banks and companies access to financing in dollars, and enabling the inflow of foreign investment to China. 
  • Hong Kong, in other words, is potentially a soft underbelly for a Chinese regime that desperately needs economic stability to shore up its political support. Other experts believe that the United States isn’t trying to use Hong Kong to open up a new front in the showdown against Beijing; it is merely trying to preserve Hong Kong’s independence and relative freedoms as best it can. 
  • Politico – Stuart Lau et al. / EU won’t follow Trump into a trade war over Hong Kong

Financial Times – David Keohane / Renault to slash 14,600 jobs in €2bn cost-cutting plan

  • Renault plans to cut 14,600 jobs, shrink production and restructure some of its French factories as the carmaker looks to slash €2bn in costs amid falling demand. With profits almost wiped out last year and sales slumping, Renault is trying to achieve more than €2bn in savings over the next three years while cutting global production capacity from 4m vehicles in 2019 to 3.3m by 2024.
  • Before his arrest on charges of financial misconduct in Japan, former Renault chief Mr Ghosn had targeted selling more than 5m vehicles by 2022. Now, as part of its turnaround plan, Renault said it was launching discussions with unions to repurpose plants in France, some of which could stop making cars altogether, and which would involve job cuts.
  • The group has not made final decisions about the future of six sites in France, including at Flins and Dieppe, as it faces both political and union opposition. The 14,600 planned job cuts across the group will be “based on retraining, internal mobility and voluntary departures” and include a reduction of 4,600 staff in France. Renault employs more than 180,000 globally.
  • Renault’s cost-cutting plan, which will cost roughly €1.2bn to implement, will lean on a new strategy outlined by its alliance with Nissan and Mitsubishi on Wednesday which will see the three groups carve up responsibilities across the partnership. It will also put each company in charge of specific markets: Europe and Russia for Renault; China, the US and Japan for Nissan; and south-east Asia for Mitsubishi.
  • Bloomberg – Tara Patel / Renault to cut 14,600 jobs worldwide in race to slash costs

The Atlantic – Rachel Donadio / The coming setback for women in the workplace

  • An executive at a major French cosmetics company told me she’s been running a team of 70 and overseeing her kids’ schooling while her husband, a nurse, works long hours treating coronavirus patients in a Paris hospital. Another executive, at an energy company, has been working full-time—as well as doing all the cooking and cleaning, and making sure her kids take their online classes—because her husband doesn’t pull his weight.
  • With women still the default caregivers for young children and aging parents, a disproportionate number of women might stay at home while men go back to work. The problem extends beyond France—a recent United Nations study warned that COVID-19 risked reversing decades of progress concerning gender equality in the workforce.
  • Governments play a huge role in shaping the labor market, through enforcing labor laws, providing paid time off, and requiring that workplaces offer parental leave. Yet policy makers must now consider another issue that affects whether women are able to go back to work: child care and reopening schools. The lack of attention given to the links between child care and levels of female employment is partly due to the fact that most decision makers in government and at the top levels of business are men.
  • The situation is far worse in Italy. Traditional gender roles and a lack of state child-care support weigh on Europe’s fourth-largest economy, and will hinder its economic recovery. Barely half of Italian women work with a legal employment contract, one of the lowest levels in Europe, compared with 68 percent in France and 80 percent in Sweden.
  • The Guardian – Kate Connolly et al. / ‘We are losers in this crisis’: research finds lockdowns reinforcing gender inequality

Further reading for the weekend:

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and EsadeGeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

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