There’s Brexit, there’s Kim, and there’s Powell this week, but behind the scenes, there’s also Bayer.
A key trial starts in San Francisco about whether glyphosate causes cancer. It’s only the second in a series but consolidates hundreds of other cases and could give an idea of how much Bayer may face in fines over its controversial weedkiller, Roundup. The German pharmaceutical giant denies its product is dangerous and after much preparation, is ready this time. In the first trial it was surprised by a $79 million judgement. The company has a new defense team, including Brian Stekloff, who successfully defended Bayer’s blood thinner Xarelto early last year. This trial also asks whether Bayer should have warned users of a possible cancer risk. Proceeding are likely to run for several weeks and again, several related questions bounce back up again, starting with why Bayer spent so much money on Monsanto in the first place. And beyond that, beyond Bayer even, as buyers can share information ever more easily, and reputation matters more, when will businesses shape up?
Politics is the fine art of can-kicking, and Theresa May takes the biscuit by postponing MPs’ vote on a Brexit deal. Trump too put off trade tariffs with China that were originally set for this week. Berlin is waiting while the president weighs whether to add a 25 percent tariff on European cars. The stakes are outsize in this country; few depend on foreign markets as much as Germany. And that dependency goes beyond cars. Last year, the 30 DAX companies made 79 percent of their profits abroad. Thirty years ago, half of their business was still in Germany. Bayer, SAP, Fresenius Medical Care, Merck, Heidelberg Cement, Linde and Adidas all make more money outside the country. Beyond the blue chips, the next 70 largest businesses also do 70 percent of their business abroad. The US market is growing faster than Germany’s, and people seem happier to spend, so those relations are not going to change any time soon.
As far as change goes, let’s find new and better ways to deal with people who may at first seem different. A ZEW study found that living in eastern Germany is 10 times more dangerous than living in western Germany for asylum seekers. Surely, protecting the safety of people who have survived horrors should be a given.
Beyond that, in the coming months and years, I’m hoping we can find that diversity is about personal fundamentals such as love, sorrow, and grief; the exterior is just a landscape, in the formulation of Teju Cole, a novelist and essayist with roots in the United States and Nigeria. He writes that diversity is an advantage, not a burden.
If you want to receive the Daily Briefing in your inbox or subscribe to our other newsletters, please click here.