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‘Striking’ APEC confrontation causes uncertainty ahead of G20

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The opening photo call at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit Saturday turned out to be a useful roadmap for what unfolded in Papua New Guinea’s capital this past weekend.

Front and centre in the shot: Xi Jinping. Stiff and straight, offering an authoritarian smile.

Maybe it was the alphabet that put the Chinese president in the front row (Justin Trudeau was just off-centre, to Xi’s right and the world’s left, with Chile between them.) But it’s a useful visual metaphor, so let’s continue.

Just over Xi’s left shoulder stood Vladimir Putin’s No. 2: Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev. 

Who was missing? Donald Trump’s representative. U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence’s itinerary didn’t prioritize the opening photo.

The leaders carried on without him.

The opening photo call, with China’s Xi Jinping in the front row and U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence absent, served as a sign of things to come at the 2018 APEC summit. (Aaron Favila/Associated Press)

Such was the APEC summit in 2018: the commanding presence of China driving its agenda, with an isolated United States pursuing competing goals, leaving others looking very uncomfortable.

When trade watchers marvel at the failure of this group to come up with even a general consensus statement on a few issues, they do so because this isn’t meant to be a forum for fighting.

Co-operation: it’s right there in APEC’s name.

APEC doesn’t usually get into security issues or high politics, University of British Columbia Asia specialist Yves Tiberghien said.

« This confrontation… as far as I know it was the first time, » he said. « It’s striking. »

Stark contrast to ASEAN

APEC is usually a friendly summit, where the head of the International Monetary Fund offers a briefing and affiliated business advisory councils « engage » politicians on their regional priorities.

Hot for 2018: « strengthening the digital economy » and — in an effort not to look too elite among the Maseratis ferrying VIPs around APEC’s poorest country — enabling « a more open, accessible and secure online environment, so communities and businesses of all sizes can participate. » (Canada was pleased to see an emphasis on digital privacy issues, an official said.)

Many of the leaders, Trudeau included, arrived in Port Moresby from Singapore, the host for the 2018 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and East Asia Summit talks.

The contrast was stark, even jarring: from the luxury fashion labels of a city capitalizing on its region’s fast-growing wealth, to the broken windows and tin roofs of a developing country pushed beyond its limits to host.

Holidays were declared to clear out the city for its international visitors, who were warned not to stop at roadside stands trying to attract the attention, and money, of foreigners.

« This is the biggest thing Papua New Guinea has done in their history, » said Jonathan Pryke, director of the Pacific Islands program at the Lowy Institute, a non-partisan Australian think-tank. The country has « acute development issues, » something Australia has been providing low-key help with for years, particularly in its remote and rural regions.

China winning ‘both above board and below board’

Australia’s support overall dwarfs the Chinese money that flowed into Port Moresby to ensure the summit’s success. But there was nothing subtle about China’s role: a huge Chinese gate outside the brand new Hilton Hotel, with a giant roadside banner celebrating « co-operation » and « peace, » made it pretty obvious who was paying.

Chinese aid is strategic, Pryke says, and usually followed by contracts for China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

« Corruption is a real thing here, » he said. « These SOEs don’t operate on the same playing field as a lot of Western commercial enterprises here. But they’re also competitors. So they are winning contracts both above board and below board. »

China’s presence and influence could be felt throughout Papua New Guinea’s capital city of Port Moresby during the APEC summit. (Mark Schiefelbein/AFP/Getty Images)

Extrapolate that Chinese strategy to a global scale and it gets easier to see what Donald Trump is on about, and why the Americans are so unhappy with the aspects of the World Trade Organization that enable market-distorting, state-subsidized competition.

Fundamental issues stood in the way of a final communiqué at APEC, with some countries wanting reform, and China strenuously objecting to accusations it isn’t playing by the rules laid out when it joined the WTO in 2001.

According to reports from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, China tried to strong-arm the summit’s host into the language it wanted. No dice.

This disagreement isn’t something that a few more hours, days or weeks of conversation will resolve, despite Xi’s suggestion that multilateralism — talking — is the answer to the escalating trade war that’s slapped hundreds of billions of dollars in disruptive tariffs on the world’s products.

The U.S. may be big enough for a go-it-alone, protectionist strategy, but others — Canada included — are not. Their prosperity depends on trade, and their future economic growth likely requires selling new things to China’s enormous market.

However, their security may depend on continuing to line up with the U.S. So rhetorical demands to pick sides are unwelcome.

Singapore’s prime minister said this week that ASEAN countries need a good working relationship with both China and the U.S. to thrive. The appetite to confront American trade bullying may fade in the face of security concerns, like North Korea’s nuclear program.

‘Coalition in the middle’

The road to the seat of government in Port Moresby was paved by the Chinese. But the warships in its harbour were Australian and American.

Pence turned up at APEC with a commitment to work with Australia to redevelop a naval base on Manus Island to try to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

Beyond the trade war between the U.S. and China, there’s a second confrontation underway about globalization itself, Tiberghien said.

« Clearly there is an interesting clash where the U.S. is saying ‘trade has left too many people behind’ … we have to ‘rein in trade,' » he said.

The tension between the U.S. and China was one of the biggest takeaways from the 2018 APEC summit. (Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press)

Here the U.S. is not alone: Malaysia, a Pacific Rim trade partner Trudeau also met with this weekend, has voiced similar concerns (and not ratified the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership yet.) So have populist politicians in Europe, including some of the champions of Brexit in the U.K.

It’s a « redrawing of camps, » Tiberghien said.

Trudeau’s father Pierre championed a « third way » foreign policy, hoping to diversify its relationships beyond its Commonwealth history and its geographic ties to the U.S.

Now the son finds himself in need of a third way in trade policy — if the U.S. won’t champion a multilateral trading system anymore, who will? Canada’s working with allies like the European Union, Japan and Australia on how to reinvigorate a rules-based system.

But when the G20 meets in two weeks, the fighting between the two biggest players may suck oxygen away from topics like WTO reforms.

« It’s a very tense environment for making any breakthrough, » Tiberghien said. « But on a secondary level, Canada can show a good image by saying ‘we’re here, we’re reasonable, we stand for principles, we’ll stand with partners that believe in the same principles’ and maybe, over time, build a coalition in the middle. »

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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme

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Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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