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Under The Radar – 28 January

Photo by lan deng on Unsplash

This week, we discuss:

  1. The Big Cats set to unite in UK-India trade deal

  2. 808s & Heartbreak for Gap?

  3. The battle to censor social media

The Big Cats set to unite in UK-India trade deal

What Happened? Talks between Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the UK’s International Trade Secretary, and Piyush Goyal, India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, are said to be progressing well as new Resolution Foundation analysis suggests Britain can gain first-mover advantage in India by striking a deal.  What does it mean?

The Resolution Foundation report predicts that the gains from a UK-India trade deal could be on par with those from a future trade agreement with the US, as negotiations over the latter have ground to a halt due to Brexit complications. The report does note, however, that the UK economy may face tougher competition as Britain’s business service firms could be undercut by lower-cost Indian alternatives. In May 2021, Boris Johnson met virtually with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to announce a historic commitment to strengthen and welcome a new era in bilateral relations. The UK Government’s trade policy pivot to the Indo-Pacific region is indicative of its recognition of the significant growth potential in countries such as India, a traditionally tough market to crack due to strict domestic regulations. Looking to reinforce its ‘Global Britain’ image, the UK is also seeking membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which includes nations like Canada, Australia, and Japan. If the UK were to be successful, they would be the first European state to join the 11-nation group, yet the potential benefits of a deal with India would outweigh the benefits of gaining CPTPP membership – as would the risks. The uncertainty associated with India’s rapidly evolving economy is a price Johnson’s government must pay in return for access to what will be the world’s third-largest import market by 2050. The juicy first-move advantages, granting UK businesses competitive advantage over exporting firms in other Western nations without preferential access to India, may well be enough to convince our current administration to act now.

808s & Heartbreak for Gap?

What happened? When Kanye West, the ever-controversial rapper, announced his ten-year partnership with family-friendly American retailer Gap, eyebrows were raised. Surprisingly, it now looks as if the marriage isn’t going quite to plan. What does it mean?

Kanye’s decision to collaborate with Gap, while out of left field, offered a potentially beneficial partnership for both sides. West could present his branding in a more affordable way to a larger market, while Gap had the opportunity to rejuvenate its image after close to two decades of declining sales. An added bonus for Gap was that West is a self-marketing machine. The business models of the two couldn’t be more different. Kanye’s foray into the fashion industry has resulted in various collaborations with high profile brands as well as regular attendance at high end fashion shows. Gap, on the other hand, markets itself as an affordable, high street clothing brand. So, what has “this generation’s closest thing to Einstein” (in his own words), brought to the mid-level clothing brand so far? Not much, as it turns out. Mr West, who actually worked at a Gap store before he became famous, has released just two products in eighteen months under the Yeezy Gap branding. Gap is reportedly frustrated with the slow rollout, yet they may soon be appeased with a Balenciaga collaboration set to be announced. Kanye’s history of erratic and impulsive music releases, which have seen him delay and cancel projects, means Gap may just have to accept an inconsistent rollout. But eighteen months into the collaboration, and with net sales down 12% in 2021 compared to 2019, it’s difficult to see whether it will ever be worth it.

The battle to sensor social media

What happened?

Twitter has revealed that a record 43,387 demands to remove content were made by governments around the world between January and June last year. What does it mean? This time last year, Twitter sparked a heated debate after they permanently banned Donald Trump’s account in the wake of the Capitol insurrection. A year later, and the topic of censorship is back on the table, but this time, the table has well and truly turned. 95% of the legal demands came from just five countries. Surprisingly, Japan leads the pack, followed by more obvious authoritarian culprits – Russia, Turkey, and India, with another East Asian democracy, South Korea, rounding off the list.   Whilst the United States did not find itself at the top of the table in this category, it is the undisputed invasion of privacy champion, finding itself as the single largest source of government information requests. Despite Twitter’s attempt to appear defiant in their statement, accusing these governments of being a “threat to privacy and freedom of expression”, records revealed that the social media site ‘withheld’ access to content, or required reported accounts holders to remove the content, in over half of the demands made by government officials. The debate over big tech and government intervention has been simmering for some time now, and it appears that threats from politicians to clampdown on social media has seen Twitter rollover more often than not. We are in the era of social media censorship, whether it’s the private sector or state who reigns supreme remains to be seen.

This Week’s Must Reads

  1. “How the Ukraine question divides the American right” by Janan Ganesh for The Financial Times

  2. “Is Wes Streeting the next Labour leader?” by Ailbhe Rea for The New Statesman

  3. “Boris Johnson is the problem, not his underlings” by Daniel Finkelstein for The Times

  4. “The abandoned revolution: has the government given up on Brexit?” by Ross Clark for The Spectator

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