Welsh Conservatives in the European Parliament
Dr Kay Swinburne MEP

What will be the EU's role in the new world order? Aberystwyth University, 18.03.11

What will be the EU's role in the new world order?
I'll attempt to cover this in 2 parts the first being an
1.      Overview of the current financial situation in the EU post the banking crisis
a.      Discussing improvements to economic governance
b.      Discussing the current Government debt situation
c.       Future of the Euro
d.      Noting that while the current circumstances dictate that these issues get primary legislative attention, it is vitally important to focus on the medium term effects of policy on promoting a platform for sustainable economic growth in the EU in the face of considerable competitive pressures from emerging economies globally.
2.      Which leads to the second half of my talk which will be important for you, our next graduates :
a.      Where is growth in the EU going to come from
b.      What business and operating environment is required to promote continued economic growth
c.       Financing economic growth in an era unprecedented debt
d.      What are the main challenges that we face in a new world economic order?
Once I've outlined these thoughts I will be more than happy to take any questions you may have

To begin with I would like to outline where we are now in the EU by briefly assessing recent events and the current financial situation in the Europe.
Although the Banking crisis has in the main passed many economies are still reeling from the ramifications and cost of bank bailouts. Hence it is vitally important to identify the weak points in economic governance at all levels that either contributed to the problem or hindered a swift resolution. These include fixing problems identified within the financial sector and those which have emerged subsequently in the sovereign debt crisis in Europe and the crisis of confidence in the Eurozone and Euro itself.
The European Parliament and the EU institutions are focussed on a very intense legislative response involving increased supervision of banks, increased regulation of financial services generally, and also on improved economic governance where governments of the Eurozone in particular, but the EU as a whole begin to adhere to prudent fiscal and budgetary rules.
To turn firstly to the policy response to the banking sector, in its broadest sense, a lack of transparency led to both the creation of the banking crisis and prolonged its effects. The absence of position and pricing transparency being key. Banks amassed huge positions in relatively new and complex credit derivatives, with no routine reporting and an absence of independent verification of the values of these structures priced off each bank's own proprietary models.
In many fields, derivatives contract are commonplace however the abundance of derivative products on bank's balance sheets directly led to the credit crunch – individual banks had no idea how much exposure other banks had to complex derivatives, or whether they had valued them correctly and hence could not assess whether a counterparty held sufficient capital buffers to fund an adverse price movement. Hence the banks at the height of the crisis did not lend to each other. Lehman Bros went bust over a weekend as even intra-bank lending for 1 day appeared to be too risky.
The G20 have focussed much of their global work on regulating these derivative structures in the future. The legislative response to this lack of transparency has been to attempt to maximise the number of transactions that can be settled and cleared externally in a clearing house akin to listed derivatives. Increasing transparency and providing daily collateral through a third party should make the system safer for all in the future. This is being achieved in the US via the Dodd-Frank Bill in the EU via a new regulation called EMIR and mimicked across Asia, Canada and Australia with all G20 countries having committed to this programme.
Whilst a capitalist system may not always work well, it is the system which has led to the greatest sustained improvements in our standards of living and we meddle with it at our peril. This is not to say that we cannot impose boundary conditions on market activities, such as we do with the monopolies and mergers commission,. However, we need to ensure that the legislative and policy response is proportionate to the problems and risks identified and where possible remedies implemented on a global basis.
The EU has gone into hyperactivity mode post-crisis attempting to regulate bankers pay, hedge fund activities, credit rating agencies, the financial markets themselves and the derivative instruments that precipitated the liquidity crisis and loss of confidence, to name but a few. Bank capital by definition was previously too low as tax payers were required to rescue banks in the UK, the EU and the US, therefore a large focus internationally is being paid to improving these capital buffers.
We must remember however that in the rush to create new regulation that the banking sector which failed so spectacularly globally was the most regulated part of the financial system. So one has to ask whether it is a lack of existing rules or the failure to enforce and supervise that was the ultimate failing.
Enhanced oversight in the form of new EU supervisory authorities, and increased scrutiny of practices where there is a lack of transparency, will go a long way to ensuring that all EU banks play by the same rules in the future.
A debate still to be concluded is the decision as to whether consumer banking should be ring-fenced from more leveraged parts of a bank to stop a repeat of the Northern Rock queues to withdraw savings. As this is a debate in itself, I will move on to discuss the need to address the second financial crisis, that of excess government debt.
First of all, to understand what is going on, and in particular to the market reaction that has so far forced 2 EU countries to seek aid, it is important to understand 2 concepts. First that the amount of borrowing and lending in the world is necessarily equal, so a stricken borrower in this case a number of EU Treasuries, are competing to attract a finite pool of funds.
Second, the need to understand the difference between debt and deficit. These are commonly and wrongly interchanged in press reports. Debt is the total amount of loans that you currently have outstanding. The deficit is how much more debt you are accumulating than you are receiving in income during a financial year.
Therefore, when we say we are cutting the deficit, this means that we are lessening the increase in our total debt but our total debt increases even when we have no deficit at all. So, even in the UK, where we are forced to take measures to cut the deficit – even with these measures our total debt is still increasing year on year.
 Therefore a country running a 10% budget deficit – and in the EU there were worse figures than that – is increasing its overall debt by 10% of GDP a year. Countries borrow this money by auctioning bonds of different maturity up to 30yrs in the financial markets. The purchasers typically being investment funds, pension funds, hedge funds, sovereign funds, insurance companies and the like. If it looks like a country will not be able to repay these bonds, a process which called debt rescheduling, investors naturally refuse to buy and indeed often choose to sell the bonds of that country. At this point, the country need to seek emergency aid to continue to pay civil servants and keep the infrastructure running.
To give you an indication about how serious the current debt crisis is in parts of the EU, Greek 10year bonds are yielding over 12% in the secondary market. This means that if Greece wanted to sell bonds in the open market as opposed to using the EU emergency funding facilities, it would have to pay the buyer 12% interest a year and his/her money back after 10 years.
So for every 1 million Euros it borrowed at 12%, Greece would pay out 3.1 million Euros over the 10 years due to the compounding interest effect. In order for the government debt not to balloon over this time the income through taxes and other revenue sources would have to triple. Greece would require extremely high growth rates to do this so at this level of funding the country would eventually go bankrupt and default on the debt if it were not bailed out.
The trigger point for a bailout in the EU appears to be when 10yr yields move above 7% and open market funding becomes unsustainable. Portugal is currently yielding 7.7% which is why there are constant rumours of Portugal being the next country to seek aid. Spain is yielding 5.4%, so paying more to borrow than Greece is on the emergency facility.
By contrast, the UK is yielding about 3.6% as a result of the austerity measures and the markets’ confidence in the UK government to manage the debt crisis. This is barely 0.4% more than Germany, the region’s economic powerhouse. As bank borrowing, and hence lending, rates are linked to the government borrowing rates this should in theory mean a supply of cheap capital in the form of lending to the wider economy to stimulate investment and growth.
There are obviously on going discussions between government and banks over this issue as banks also are required to strengthen their balance sheets and encouraged to be risk averse but it is likely that common ground will be found whereby the low interest rate effect of the austerity measures can be shared with the wider economy.
The EU response is ongoing and include
1.      establishing the European Stability Fund of some Euro 550bn which can purchase primary market bonds
2.      requiring budget discipline in return for access to EU funs
3.      ECB in secondary market and providing unlimited funding to financial institutions
The Maastricht treaty stipulates a gross government debt to GDP ratio of 60% and a maximum budget deficit of 3%. The aim is to restore and enforce these levels.
Perhaps surprisingly, governments also use financial derivatives to enhance reported numbers. Infamously, Greece entered in to swaps with Goldman Sachs which allowed it to report it had achieved the convergence criteria to join the Euro. As with such uses of derivatives in finance, there is a reckoning day and calls have been made for all governments to come clean about the derivatives they are using.
Analogously to the transparency issues in financial institutions, lenders need to be confident that the reported government statistics are accurate and comparable or they withdraw funding. Governments should also be held to the same standards as they call for in financial institutions.
Now to the question of the Euro itself. The Euro was introduced on the 1st January 1999 and was just as much a political event as it was a financial one.
However, whether or not you think the UK would benefit from Euro membership – and this is a huge topic worthy of a talk in and of itself – it cannot be denied that it has been a huge success. The Euro was introduced at 1.18 USD to 1 Euro. It now stands at just under 1.4 USD so has strengthened markedly over the last 12 years despite the peripheral Euro zone problems. At the depth of the Euro zone crisis before a stability pact was formed, it briefly revisited its introduction level but has since rallied. Furthermore, the Euro has been accepted and is gaining prominence as a world reserve currency.
So it would be fair to say that the market on the whole believes in the Euro. The response to the financial crisis give credence to this view although we wait to see whether peripheral Euro zone countries can be competitive from within the system.
This is the first crisis that the Euro has faced and it was unthinkable that politicians would capitulate at this time. However, it has thrown up issues that have yet to be dealt with. Some have been mentioned before about how to ensure fiscal discipline in all member states and whether it is fair that taxpayers from one member state bail out another member with a more competitive tax regime to attract business. Recent press articles about French and German unease at Ireland’s 12% corporate tax rate have unsettled their voters.
Many commentators have suggested that monetary union will require fiscal union, at least to some degree, to maintain long term viability and indeed we have heard noises supporting that view from Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel which may indeed be the thin end of the wedge.
But ultimately, and as it should be, it may be the voters who decide the future of the Euro. There are 6 AAA rated countries left in the Euro zone and three of them, namely Germany, Austria and Finland have voiced concerns lately about providing aid to countries which maintain a beneficial tax status to their own.
The future of the Euro looks secure but that does not mean that future of certain Euro zone member states looks secure. Many observers are sceptical about how pre-Euro higher yielding states can grow their economies from within the single monetary system. This also comes at a time when we have to look at how the EU can compete with the rest of the world in the face of an emergent India, China, Brazil and Russia. It may be that without severe structural reforms, which will have to result in a temporarily reduced standard of living due to higher taxes, smaller pensions, significantly higher retirement ages, lower benefits, longer working days and lower wages it is difficult to see how some countries can compete inside the EU let alone with the rest of the world.
It may be that the voters of some countries may at some point prefer their own currency which can be devalued , the modus operandi pre Euro, rather than endure the pains of transition. Weaker states leaving the Euro would however only strengthen the appeal of the Euro as a global currency.
So with the assumption that the Euro is here to stay, we now have to consider the international competitive environment going forward and where the EU should place itself to ensure ongoing economic growth.
It is of course still possible that the Eurozone crisis may escalate short term and that austerity measures in several countries will slow growth, especially as the USA unwinds its massive fiscal stimulus measures. While economists, central bankers and politicians alike ponder the likelihood of double-dips, inflation or deflation the most likely scenario is a slow growth in mature Western markets with perhaps both inflation and higher interest rates in the long term. In many countries of Europe, the recovery will be over a very long period.
Sir Martin Sorrell or the global advertising firm WPP recently described the differential growth rates around the world in terms of a football analogy as follows:
The Premier league consists of the BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India and China and CIVETS, Columbia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey, and South Africa who are growing strongly and consistently, albeit from a relatively low base in some cases.
The Championship league led by the US because of its size, immigrant entrepreneurial culture and human and natural resources, along with an economically well-run and high value added manufacturing export led Germany.
League One which represents Western Europe primarily UK, France, Italy and Spain and finally League two, Japan and some of the Mediterranean countries of the EU whose growth has been stagnant for a long time. So to extend the metaphor, Brazil, Russia, India and China are for Sorrell the equivalent of Chelsea, Man Utd, Arsenal and Man City whilst the UK is Colchester on the cusp of possible promotion.
No doubt you’ve heard a lot about the BRIC countries and their current high economic growth rates. Let me start with some simple statistics about one of these economies, namely China in order to illustrate the challenge which lies ahead for the EU.
1.      In the last quarter of 2010 China overtook Japan to become the second largest country in the world in terms of GDP. It continues to report double figure growth rates with a targeted growth rate of 8% compound. At this rate China will be double its current size in 9 years.
2.      There are over 4 million unemployed graduates in China. An engineering graduate would consider £4500 a year to be a good wage.
3.      China has set itself the goal of moving from the factory of the world to the innovator of the world. It projects that indigenous innovation will surpass the EU by 2018 and surpass the US by 2022 making it the biggest R&D investing country in the world.
4.      Key areas that China will focus on include electronics, biotechnology and renewable energy. Sites are already under construction – one visited by MEP’s last summer is in Jilin province in the North East of the country. It is 210 square kilometres in size. Half devoted to optoelectronics and half to biotechnology. The whole site will be landscaped to include modern living accommodation for scientists and workers with a high speed train to Beijing. It will be open in 2 years.
5.      China is building the most high speed trains of any country in an effort to link all conurbations in the country. The high speed train from Shanghai airport in to Shanghai travels at 431 km/hour or approx. 270 miles/hour. It is the fastest passenger vehicle in the world not to leave the earth. Next year the high speed train service between Beijing and Shanghai will open. The distance is a little more than travelling from to London to Glasgow and back again. It will do the journey in just over 4 hours.
6.      China ordered last year alone, 6 top of the range, state of the art DNA sequencing machines so that in one step it will have access to better and faster technology than most of the world in this field
7.      China is already the world’s second largest producer of wind energy
8.      A Chinese official recently said that just having money to invest in China is no longer important – they want FDI in R&D and for Western countries to establish their brand networks. He said he would prefer to turn away a pure cash investment of 1bn USD – compare that to Europe!
9.      There have been estimates of 100,000 people in Shanghai having $100,000 or more in their bank account. That’s 10 billion dollars disposable spending cash and helps explain why western luxury brand manufacturers are recording bumper profits.
10.China Mobile is the world’s largest mobile operator and is already developing 4G. 400 million Chinese use the internet.
11.China has some of the largest and best capitalised banks in the world and 3 of their financial markets, in addition to Hong Kong, ranked in the top 10 for global issuance of company stock last year
It sounds pretty daunting doesn’t it?
So how can we compete?
 – well lets look at some of the claims in a little more detail
China may be the world’s second largest economy but its GDP per head is $3000 compared to over $30,000 dollars per head in the US. In other words, the average person is quite poor. This is accentuated by the enormous wealth gap which allows western luxury brands to flourish. In Shanghai, the annual gross wages of a worker from the countryside will buy one tenth of a square metre of the average apartment. Such disparities are not good for social cohesion.
The Chinese government are aware of this and have stated their aim to share the benefits of growth more equally going forward. However the provision of a social security net, health care provision and eradicating corruption – all necessary for long term social stability is not an overnight exercise and in the west took considerable amounts of time. Nor is it necessarily a smooth process. In this respect, China’s single minded drive for economic growth, and its success in doing so, is not necessarily a guide to the future.
In the EU we have these institutions and safety nets in place. This is an environment that should encourage risk taking and entrepreneurialism and gives us a significant competitive advantage. As much as we don't always appreciate our bureaucracy establishing businesses is a straightforward process in the EU – we have no corruption – and we ensure the enforcement of the rule of law, especially that of international patent law so important in the field of innovation. All of this gives us a competitive advantage over a Chinese counterpart.
There are over 4 million graduates seeking employment but as a percentage of the population this is not a significant number. The transition from low value to high value jobs is a function of education, an area that the EU excels at. It is vitally important that our universities throughout the EU stay at the leading edge of education, offering courses and training that are relevant to the competitive environment that our graduates will face on graduation. If we do this, we will have an enormous pool of talented people who will become the business leaders of tomorrow and who will be responsible for driving EU growth through innovation. China does not have the same educational infrastructure and again, this will not be a quick exercise too develop.
China has indeed set itself the goal of becoming the innovator of the world and given its adherence to previously set goals, this claim needs to be taken seriously. In the time frame we are talking about, much of this R&D will have to be led by non-Chinese scientists and innovators. Indeed the resources being established for such professionals are of an extremely high calibre. However a large impediment is the lack of adherence to international patent law and it will require a huge cultural shift to get Chinese people and businesses to adhere to them.
This work is not being done currently in China – we have the competitive advantage here that the innovation is currently being driven from the West with the consequential job creation that successful innovation engenders. IT innovation in the EU and the USA in the late 80’s and early 90’s led to a decade of high growth and huge increases in household wealth.
Surely it is easier to maintain and incentivise existing innovation that to attract it to the other side of the world with all of the logistical and social implications? From an EU perspective, hurdles to innovation should be removed. Innovation can and should be encouraged through tax breaks on investment, accounting treatment of capital purchases, infrastructure investment to support the creation of centres of innovation.
New approaches to funding can be considered. One can imagine a public funding R&D contribution in biotechnology in return for cheaper access to any products developed. Similarly one can imagine an R&D contribution in return for increasing employment locally when the company expands. Done properly and intelligently, this is not government spending, but is more akin to a private equity investment with a positive net expected return. Already having these businesses here, and having the ability to support them, puts us at a huge competitive advantage to the East.
With Western companies having enormous amounts of cash sitting inactive on their balance sheets in the EU which is estimated to top a trillion Euros – we should provide a positive incentives for these large cash rich companies to utilise these funds to invest in new technologies and innovative projects within SMEs around the EU. The tax system in member states around Europe could re-address investment incentives and rebalance the role of equity over the current debt financing.
China will indeed focus on biotechnology and green industries.
However we already have a long history of biotechnology research here in the EU. My first degree was in biotech, my PhD medical biochemistry and my work before politics was advising pharmaceutical and biotech companies globally on corporate and finance strategy. Europe has been at the heart of biotech since it emerged, in the search for new medicines, in the production of medicines such as antibiotics and biologicals, the food and brewing industry and of course in the area of crop development and protection. We are home to many of the world's largest and most innovative global life science companies however, as yesterday's announcement by Novartis suggests we are no longer the destination of choice for their R&D activities as many European companies begin to move their highly skilled R&D jobs East.
We have to ask the hard question of why we are no longer the chosen location for such lucrative investment by global corporations and in the field of life sciences much of it has to do with the hostile regulatory environment that the EU has imposed upon this sector. Regulatory standards for health and safety in manufacturing plants should be high – but reasonable, regulatory standards to minimise environmental impact should be high, but again reasonable. Acceptance that new technologies enhance production and can improve output needs to extend to biotech including GMOs. IBERS is a world class centre for plant breeding which is being hampered by interfering politicians at both a local and European level.
Many of our companies are already working on green industries. Did you know many European car companies stopped research in to internal combustion engines mpre than 2 years ago to focus on new greener technologies. Denmark has set up an electric car trial where a battery is automatically changed via a machine at petrol stations and assessments are being carried out to try and manage energy demand. Consider the possibility that by plugging in a battery after work it could lead to greener power stations. The idea being that at peak usage, the grid borrows the electric power for the evening surges and charges the battery during the night. As nuclear power stations cannot respond to a surge in demand and hence provide a background supply, we currently rely on fossil fuel powered plants to do this. Some of the poorest countries in the world can benefit from green technologies. For example, Bolivia has the highest proven reserves of lithium, a rare element used in the production of long life batteries, thus expanding their markets could decrease their dependence on EU aid for development.
Being green is in our national security and corporate security interests. On one hand we are exposed to oil exporting countries. On the other, and if we consider the awful situation in Japan, knocking out 1 power plant is leading to rolling power cuts over the city. Lots of smaller, localised, renewable power generation is in everyone’s interest and a lot of investment and jobs will be directed in this area going forward. Again, with the education standards and existing infrastructure, the EU is well placed to compete.
Finally there is the demographics issue. This is an area where EU nations have to adjust. It could be said that my parents and yours have lived through the golden generations. The EU has not been at war, living standards increased enormously and consistently from the post war era. The EU demographics throughout this time have paid for pensions and a welfare state. We have to realise that this economic paradigm no longer holds true. If we want to compete globally, we have to accept that we will live longer and hence have to work longer. We cannot expect the state to pick up the bills in the same way it has for our parents because the tax revenues to pay these bills can easily relocate in a global economy.
This is not to say that the next generation has to endure a worse future. We are building on a solid infrastructure left to us, an infrastructure that educates us and permits us to take risks, to innovate, to take responsibility and satisfaction in driving our economy and standards of living higher. In these respects we, in the EU, are in prime position to take on the challenges of the future.
The future growth achieved by the EU will dictate what the future role of the EU will be in the new world order. We as a group of 27 countries need to aspire to achieve excellence in innovation, allow capital markets to operate effectively so that they serve the real economy, with banks lending to buisnesses and funding the growth in our current and future companies.
We need to establish our strengths and build on these competencies and whilst we need to do this in a socially responsible way – providing welfare and protection for our citizens – we need to ensure our regulatory framework does not hinder our future growth but acts to facilitate our future prosperity.
This will be the challenge for politicians now and in the future, in Wales, In the UK, the UK and beyond.
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Welsh Conservatives

The European Commission has today designated European Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status to the well-known Pembrokeshire Early Potato from West Wales.
The Pembrokeshire Early Potato was one of only three quality farm products whose applications for PGI status were approved today.
The EU PGI schemes protect product names against misuse and under these schemes more than 1200 products are already protected.
Commenting on this announcement from the European Commission today Dr Kay Swinburne MEP – who is from West Wales - said:
"I am delighted to see that this application to have "Pembrokeshire Earlies" added to the register of PGI products has been approved by the European Commission today."

"Achieving this prestigious status is a clear acknowledgment of the high-quality and distinctive produce we continue to deliver in Wales. Pembrokeshire Early Potatoes thoroughly deserve their place alongside the well-known food and drink products from right across the EU which already feature on the PGI register."


Kay was delighted to host an event to celebrate Higher Education, Science and Innovation in Wales last night in the European Parliament.  The event builds on the British Council’s “Strategic Analysis of the Welsh Higher Education Sector, Distinctive Assets”.  A number of experts spoke to share their views of Welsh HE at the event and how it can develop in the future.

In advance of the 'Fox-Hafner Report' vote on the single seat for the European Parliament, Kay and the other UK Conservative MEPs feel it is right to draw attention to the fact that the seven-year cost of the dual-seat arrangement comes to £928,000,000. Since her election to the European Parliament in 2009, Kay has strongly supported bringing the monthly Parliamentary meetings in Strasbourg to an end and therefore saving taxpayers a considerable sum of money.


Kay was delighted to meet Malala Yousafzai, who was awarded the EU's Sakharov Human Rights Prize at the European Parliament today.

Following Malala’s speech to the European Parliament, Kay said, “What an inspirational speech Malala gave to the Members of the European Parliament today. As a mother of young children myself, I hope that they can also aspire to achieve like her. Malala is an exceptional young lady who has overcome adversity by tremendous force of character and a passionate belief in the right of everybody to enjoy and benefit from education.”   


Kay was very pleased to meet with members of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Group at the European Parliament in Brussels, one of four groups set up in key Welsh research strengths to engage with EU research funds. The delegation visiting Brussels included representatives from Cardiff University, Bangor University, Swansea University and Trinity St.Davids University.

In advance of tomorrow's European Council meeting of leaders, Dr Swinburne has echoed the recommendations made in a recent report published by a number of business leaders, which highlights the importance of removing barriers to business competitiveness in Europe and getting rid of burdensome legislation by cutting EU red tape.

Last year Dr Swinburne encouraged businesses in Wales to highlight to the European Commission which over-burdensome regulations they would like to see slashed, by writing to small businesses all over Wales and asking them to tell her their red-tape problems.

Electronic cigarettes no longer face being taken off the shelves by the EU after Conservative MEPs were successful today in amending EU legislation on tobacco labelling.

Conservative MEP's led the amendment to defeat proposals that would have classified e-cigarettes as medicinal products, meaning they would have to undergo an overly burdensome and costly authorisation procedure, which would go beyond the procedures for traditional tobacco products... (Read more under 'Articles')



Welsh Conservative MEP Kay Swinburne has been sitting down with leaders in Europe's biotech field to choose the top five candidates to compete in this year's EuropaBio Most Innovative EU Biotech SME Award.

As a member of this year's judging committee, Kay is once again supporting the EuropaBio award, which has attracted applications from all three sectors of biotechnology - healthcare, industrial and agricultural, from across the EU... (Read more under 'Articles')


WELSH Conservative MEP Dr Kay Swinburne today hailed a vote in the European Parliament as a "wake-up call" in the battle to save Europe's endangered languages.

MEPs meeting in Strasbourg backed a report which calls on governments across the EU to develop action plans to encourage continued linguistic diversity.

The report, written by Corsican MEP François Alfonsi, also says governments should be "more attentive" to threats which may lead to languages becoming extinct.

Dr Swinburne, who was a shadow rapporteur for the report, has argued that Welsh can be seen as a positive example of language revitalisation which communities across the EU should follow... (Read more under 'Articles')

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