GENTECH archive


BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest - Vol. 3, Number 20 24 May, 1999



For a more complete list of events in coming months, please refer to
ICTSD's web calendar at:


An updated list of forthcoming WTO meetings is posted at Please bear in mind that dates and
times of WTO meetings are often changed, and that the important informal
meetings of different WTO bodies are not always announced.


 For information contact Peter Pedersen, WTO, (41-22) 739- 5848.

26 May: DISPUTE SETTLEMENT BODY. Followed by an informal meeting on the
review of the Dispute Settlement Understanding.

 For information contact Nuch Nazeer, WTO, (41-22) 739-5393.


 For information contact Nuch Nazeer, as above.


 For information contact Luis Ople, WTO, (41-22) 739-5374.


28 May, Geneva: WTO-NGO BRIEFING. Topics include: preparations for the
Ministerial Conference in Seattle; Special Session of the General Council
(20 May); and Meeting of the Dispute Settlement Body (26 May).
Participants should confirm their attendance with the WTO Secretariat.
 Contact either Alain Frank: or Peter Pedersen: Time: 15:00. Place: WTO, 154 rue de Lausanne, Room

THE EUROPEAN UNION AND MEXICO. The meeting will include representatives of
Mexican civil society organisations, and will be an opportunity to learn
about the nature and implications of the agreement, and to discuss
strategies for joint lobbying initiatives. The working language will be
Spanish, although there will be assistance for French and English
 For information and to confirm attendance contact Paul Wheeler, CIFCA,
Vlasfabriekstraat 11, B-1060 Brussels, Belgium, tel: (32-2) 536-1912, fax:
1943. e-mail:

will hold this informal "cafe & croissants" meeting in the context of
current and forthcoming trade negotiations. Time: 10:00 - 12:30. Place:
Geneva Executive Centre, 13, chemin des Anemones, 1219 Geneva.
 For information contact Miguel Jimenez-Pont, ICTSD, tel: (41- 22)
917-8478, fax: 8093, e-mail:

 For information contact the UNCTAD secretariat, tel: (41-22) 907-5007,
fax: 0056, e-mail:

2-4 September, Cambridge, Massachusetts: INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON
International Development and the Belfer Center for Science and
International Affairs. The conference will address the implications of
biotechnology for: (a) international trade; (b) intellectual property
rights; (c) biodiversity prospecting; (d) developing countries; (e) human
and environmental safety; and (f) social values.
 For information contact Calestous Juma at Harvard University, tel:
(1-617) 496-0433, fax: (1-617) 496-8753, e-mail:


PASSERELLES entre le commerce et le developpement durable, the French
edition of BRIDGES, is now available online at It is published between
in collaboration with ENDA-Tiers Monde in Dakar, Senegal.

27.3(B). This report by Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN) can
be found on the web at:

OECD Report. The 1999 Monitoring and Evaluation report shows the fragility
of agricultural policy reform after a decade of efforts to bring down
levels of support for farm products, dismantle trade- distorting tariffs
and narrow the gaps between sheltered product prices and world market
prices. For a summary visit: Available in
electronic or print versions. Cost: FF380; US$67; DM113. ISBN 92-64-
17034-0 (51 99 04 1).
 To order visit:

Agriculture and Trade Policy.
 To participate contact Tanya Naumann at

Table of Contents                           

- General Council Again Moving on Ministerial Preparations
- EU Gets Butterflies About GM Corn; Brazil Lifts GM Crop Ban; ADM Pays
More For Conventional Corn
- SAARC Opposes A Comprehensive Global Millennium Round; Japan Proposes
New Free Trade Agreement
- Voices In Favour Of A WTO Global Comprhensive Trade Round
- African Trade: Moves Toward Better Integration
- Lome Talks Slowed By Disagreement Over Regional Agreements
- In Brief
- WTO In Brief
- On The Move
- Events & Resources


The General Council met again in Special Session on 20 and 21 May in the
context of the preparatory process for the Third Ministerial Meeting, to
be held in Seattle at the end of this year. The debate at last week's
meeting was felt to have been generally positive, particularly in the
light of the bad feelings generated by the impasse on the nomination of a
new Director-General of the WTO. With a steady stream of WTO Members
coming out with their formal proposals what they would like to see decided
at the Ministerial Meeting in Seattle, it is now possible to get a fuller
sense of where countries stand on different issues.

At last week's meeting delegations discussed a number of proposals
received since the April General Council Special Session (GC-SS). Amongst
these were proposals from Korea on services, agriculture and Regional
Trade Agreements (RTAs); from Hungary on State trading enterprises and
from Hong Kong China on RTAs and industrial tariffs. Norway submitted a
proposal on Trade and Environment, and on market access for industrial
goods including fish and fish products (see BRIDGES Weekly Trade News
Digest, 3 May 1999, Vol.3, No.17), Australia submitted one on export
subsidies, domestic support, industrial non- agricultural goods, RTAs, and
market access for agriculture. The EC put forward a proposal on market
access for non-agricultural products, and the U.S. put one forward on the
objective and overall framework for the agricultural negotiations.

Quite a few delegations indicated their intention to submit formal
proposals shortly. Amongst these were EC which announced that within the
next month it would be submitting proposals on tariff liberalisation
measures to increase market access for LDCs, trade in services, government
procurement, TRIPs, trade and environment, trade facilitation, trade and
investment, and trade and competition. Japan indicated its intention of
submitting a proposal on RTAs, industrial tariffs and agriculture. India
indicated that it would soon submit proposals on RTAs and on domestic
support in agriculture. ASEAN said it would submit a proposal on
compliance with the enabling clause, and on the responsibility of Members
vis-`-vis measures taken at state level, regional or local governments or
authorities within their terrritories. Zambia also announced that at the
next meeting it would circulate a non- paper - on behalf of itself and
other developing countries - on implementation and on how to better
integrate developing countries into the multilateral trading system.

Many countries welcomed the proposals on industrial tariffs, and a number
reiterated their support for "broad-based" negotiations, although there
were no surprises in the positions expressed. A few delegations including
India and Egypt expressed reservations on the inclusion of new issues or
of industrial tariffs, reiterating that the focus should be on
implementation of existing agreements.

Last week's meeting ended with a procuedural discussion on the role of the
General Council and other WTO bodies in the lead-up to the Ministerial.
The issue, raised by Uruguay, is whether the General Council should be the
sole leadership body in terms of establishing the guidelines for new
negotiations to take place, or should it delegate, particularly in the
area of services. Although no conclusion was reached, most Members said GC
should be the leadership body, and if needed it was for the General
Council to hand down a mandate to other bodies in the Ministerial
preparatory process.

The next informal meeting of the GC-SS will take place on 7-8 June.

ICTSD Internal Files.


While the EU and U.S. continue to wrangle over an EU ban on imports of
hormone treated beef, last week brought other foods - genetically modified
ones, that is - to the centre of the plate as a number of new developments

Cornell University (Ithaca, NY) researchers reported that pollen from Bt
corn, a GMO corn product, had adverse affects on monarch butterflies in
laboratory studies. Observers note that the study highlights the lack of
definitive information on the safety of GMOs from both a health and
environment standpoint. The report provoked a European Commission decision
to suspend the approval process for a GMO corn made by Pioneer Hy-bred
International. "We want to apply the precautionary principle and there's
no way any new products can be approved [until more information is
available]," said an EU spokesperson. A Pioneer spokesperson strongly
criticised the EU decision, calling it inconsistent with previous EU
decisions to approve two similar GMO corn varieties from Monsanto and

Frustrated with the EU approach toward GMOs, U.S. Senate and House members
last week called on the Clinton Administration to add trade in
biotechnology to the upcoming meeting of the Group of Seven leading
industrialised countries and Russia (G-8). "The threat to agricultural
trade from restrictions on products derived from modern biotechnology has
become serious enough to warrant the attention of world leaders," Senate
and House members said in separate letters to President Clinton. Sources
said the Clinton Administration is wary of bringing up biotechnology at
the G-8 forum, worried that it could open discussion around a biosafety
protocol - multilateral talks for which stalled earlier this year as a
result of U.S. and others' intransigence over the scope of the agreement.

Last week conflicting reports emerged in Europe regarding the safety of
GMOs. The British Medical Association (BMA) called for labelling of
genetically modified organisms (GMOs) so consumers may make an informed
choice about whether to buy GMO products until they are definitively
proven safe. The BMA does not say GMO foods are dangerous, just that there
is not enough evidence as to whether the food is safe. At the same time a
Royal Society scientific report said their studies showed no evidence that
GMOs are harmful. The Royal Society also said the risk from pollen
transfer and cross-fertilisation from GMO crops was minimal.

In related news Brazil last week announced an end to its ban on
genetically modified crops. The Agriculture Ministry announced that it
would allow biotech giant Monsanto to immediately sell five varieties of
GMO soybean for planting. The environmental NGO Greenpeace was expected to
issue a court challenge to the decision, calling for an environmental
assessment to take place before planting begins. Monsanto officials
estimate that half of the 13 million acres planted to soya each year in
Brazil will be planted with GMO varieties within 3 years. Brazilian
legislators were looking last week at at least four separate bills related
to GMOs including on regulating the physical distance of GMO crops to
water basins and human settlements.

Meanwhile, leading grain-processor Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) is
expected to contract 10 million acres of non-GMO soyabeans this year.
Total acreage for U.S. soyabeans is anticipated at 73 million acres, a
majority of which will be planted with GMO soya product. ADM will
reportedly pay a US$0.18 cents/bushel premium over regional market price
for the non-GMO product.

"British doctors call for labels on gene-altered foods," INTERNATIONAL
HERALD TRIBUNE, 19 May 1999;
 "Senate, House members want biotech on G-8 agenda, U.S. reluctant,"
INSIDE US TRADE, 21 May 1999;
 "ADM to offer premium to grow non-genetic soy," REUTERS, 5 May 1999;
 "Brazil ends ban on genetically-altered crops," REUTERS, 17 May 1999;
 "Ministers to insist GM foods are safe," THE TIMES, 19 May 1999;
 "Modified food research flawed, say top scientists," FINANCIAL TIMES, 19
May 1999;
 "Un mais transgenique tueur de papillons attise la mefiance de
Bruxelles," LE TEMPS, 21 May 1999.ICTSD Internal Files.


Members of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC)
met last week to discuss a common agenda for the Third WTO Ministerial
scheduled for Seattle later this year. SAARC is comprised of India,
Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and Maldives. SAARC
members agreed that rather than launching a new round of global trade
talks WTO Members should give priority to implementation of existing
agreements and examine the impact of those agreements on developing and
least developed countries (LDCs). SAARC ministers agreed to reject calls
for trade and labour linkage at the WTO, upholding developing countries'
stance on the issue from the First WTO Ministerial Meeting in Singapore in
1996 when the issue was referred to the ILO as the appropriate agency to
address trade and labour linkages. With regard to agriculture SAARC
members agreed on the need for total elimination of export subsidies, but
noted that LDCs and net food- importing developing countries should be
afforded adequate food security safeguards. SAARC ministers also agreed to
collectively address issues related to intellectual property rights at the
WTO. SAARC accounts for just 1 percent of all world trade, in spite of the
fact that these countries account for 20 per cent of the world's

In other news, Japan last week proposed the creation of a Northeast Asian
free trade area comprised of Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan.
Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry made the proposal,
saying the region had yet to take advantage of regional integration which
could counter other powerful trade groupings such as the North American
Free Trade Association (NAFTA, comprised of the U.S., Mexico and Canada).
The trade ministry's report said that a regional economic grouping would
expand Japan's influence in multilateral trade talks. All WTO Members
except three - Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong China - are members of at
least one regional trade agreement.

On its part, the Joint Co-operation Committee (JCC) for the EU and the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will meet this week in
Bangkok to discuss future co-operation in industry, trade, investment,
science and technology. The JCC has not met since July 1997 because of a
dispute between the EU and ASEAN over Burma's admission to ASEAN - the EU
does not recognise the military authorities in Burma on dispute over the
results of the 1990 Burmese elections, allegedly won by the opposition led
by Aung San Suu Kyi.

 "Broad SAARC agreement to oppose new issues at WTO," THE HINDU, 13 May
1999; "Saarc countries to have joint IPR stand," ECONOMIC TIMES (India),
14 May 1999;
 "EU, Asean meeting set," BANGKOK POST, 20 May 1999 "Japan proposes new
free trade zone for Northeast Asia," AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 21 May 1999.


Two weeks ago, BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest presented the views of
some of those who are dubious of a new round of global trade talks. This
week we offer a selection of views in favour of a new trade round. This is
not meant to be exhaustive - but rather to bring you some of the views
presented in the press recently.

The U.S. Alliance for Trade Expansion comprising U.S. manufacturers,
service providers and agricultural producers last month announced it would
embark on a public information campaign extolling the benefits of expanded
trade liberalisation and a new round of global trade talks. The Alliance
will embark on a "National Trade Education Tour" from 3 May, conducting
"trade education events" in 15 U.S. cities. Because the Alliance is
comprised of diverse interests it will not espouse a common position for

In a paper submitted to the European Commission earlier this year, the
Foreign Trade Association (FTA), an organisation representing major
European importers, outlined its priorities for a new WTO trade round. The
FTA endorsed a Millennium Round of talks which it said should undertake,
inter alia, negotiations following-up on work done by the WTO Committee on
Trade and the Environment, especially with respect to compatibility
between international environmental agreements and WTO rules and on
eco-labelling. The FTA also called for WTO negotiations on "protection and
non-discrimination with regard to investment", "harmonisation of
competition rules to complement the abolition of import restrictions". The
FTA said that social standards should be kept within the remit of the
International Labour Organisation.

The U.S. agricultural and food sector, grouped together as "the Seattle
Round Agricultural Committee" (SRAC) last week said it supports a
comprehensive round of multilateral trade negotiations - to include all
goods and services and agricultural and food trade policy reform. The
group called for the elimination of export subsidies and tightening of
rules for circumvention of export subsidies. Farm groups said they oppose
the re-opening of the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures
(SPS), governing food safety and plant quality standards. The SPS is
featured in U.S.-EU trade disputes over hormone treated beef and
genetically modified organisms.

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) last week told leaders from
the Group of Seven leading industrialised countries (G-7) plus Russia that
a new trade round would send a positive message to traders and investors
around the world. The ICC said a new round would "make a significant
contribution to restoring confidence in the prospects for the recovery of
the world economy in the wake of emerging markets crisis," according to an
ICC statement. The ICC said the new round should address inter alia global
rules on investment.

 "Priorities of the Foreign Trade Association for upcoming ministerial
trade negotiations in the WTO," AGENCE EUROPE, 23 March 1999;
 "Settle current rows and launch new trade round, business tells G7," ICC
PRESS RELEASE, 20 May 1999;
 "U.S. farm talks urge comprehensive WTO talks," REUTERS, 20 May 1999;
21 May 1999.


The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the Organisation
for African Unity (OAU) earlier this month agreed to work together to
strengthen regional co-operation and integration. This includes working to
implement the Abuja Treaty establishing the African Economic Community
(AEC) covering such areas as the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers
to regional and intra-community trade in goods and services, and the
harmonisation of customs duties and procedures. The two organisations will
also help African countries prepare for future WTO negotiations, and
improve their trade competitiveness.

While earlier this month in Senegal Nigerian President-elect Olusegun
Obasanjo pledged to encourage closer cooperation and economic integtration
of the 16 countries in the West African sub-region, trade officials from
the Common Market for Eastern and Southern African countries (COMESA) have
been meeting in Nairobi, where they called for a COMESA free trade area to
be established by 2000. COMESA ministers said that a combined market would
help member countries compete in the global market place - emphasising
that individual COMESA members have little chance of successfully
competing if their markets are undiversified, their infrastructure
underdeveloped and their human capital under-skilled. "The realisation of
a large market is more urgent in the current economic environment, which
is becoming increasingly global," said Kenya's minister for economic
co-operation Nicholas Biwott. Ministers called for zero-tariff levels for
all member countries by 2000, the establishment of a common external
tariff and customs union by 2004, and a monetary union by 2025. However,
COMESA's Intergovernmental Committee reported that visa requirements,
delays in customs clearance, pre-shipment inspection, transport obstacles
and the high-cost of credit posed significant non-tariff barriers to trade
between COMESA countries which must be addressed.

COMESA was founded in 1994. Its 21 countries - including Egypt, Ethiopia,
Malawi, Mauritius, Zambia and Zimbabwe - have a total population of 380
million. Many Comesa member states want to establish a counterweight to
the economic domination of the region by South Africa, who they accuse of
flooding the region with subsidised goods.

Meanwhile in Ghana, the Fifth African African-American summit, focusing on
trade and investment, took off in Accra. The week-long summit, which
registered over 5,000 government officials, business executives and
tourists from the United States, Europe Asia and Africa, is important both
symbolically and substantively, according to the Vice President of Ghana,
John Atta Mills.

 "Africa economic integration is the route to growth," IPS, 24 May, 1999;
 "Fifth African African-American summit opens," PANA, 17 May, 1999;
 "African free trade zone by the year 2000?" IPS, 19 May 1999; "COMESA to
initiate monetary co-operation," PANAFRICAN NEWS AGENCY, 19 May 1999;
 "Obasanjo pledges to hasten West African integration," PANAFRICAN NEWS
AGENCY, 4 May 1999;
 "UNCTAD and Organisation of African Unity strengthen co-operation,"


Negotiations are proceeding slowly for Lome V, the successor trade and aid
agreement to the current Lome IV Convention between the EU and 71 African,
Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) nations. "The pace of negotiations is itself a
symptom of another problem, namely the gap between the attitudes and
wishes of each side regarding the nature and content of the successor
agreement," according to ACP deputy secretary-general Carl Greenidge.

The WTO has previously ruled that the favourable trade terms the EU
affords ACP countries under Lome are not in line with international trade
rules, but the WTO allowed the current Lome Convention to operate under a
temporary waiver. The EU and ACP will now seek to reform the Lome accord
to be WTO-compatible while still affording ACP countries development
opportunities intended by the spirit of Lome.

Major disagreement exists over the EU proposal to establish reciprocal,
inter-regional free-trade areas under Regional Economic Partnership
Agreements (REPAs) (see BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest, Vol. 3, No 6,
February 15, 1999). ACP nations fear that the EU would use REPAs to gain
unbalanced access to ACP markets. Observers cite the recent EU- S.Africa
trade agreement as an example. Under that agreement the EU negotiated with
S. Africa - the region's economic leader, to gain access for its cheap,
subsidised agricultural products. However, the agreement extends EU access
to S. Africa's economically weaker regional trading partners in the
Southern Africa Development Community (SADC)- threatening domestic
producers there. Further, ACP countries argue that establishing free trade
areas between economically disparate countries/groupings (e.g. between the
EU and SADC) tends to be trade- diverting rather than trade-creating.

What is needed, Lome observers say, is a mechanism to bridge the technical
and human resource gaps between the EU and ACP countries to enable ACP
countries to compete with the EU and to make REPAs workable. The EU
proposed a 10-year phase in period for REPAs starting in 2000. ACP
countries are pushing for a transition period to begin in 2005 - with the
transition period determined by the competitiveness and preparedness of
ACP states.

"ACP-EU negotiations drag on at snail's pace," IPS, 17 May 1999;
 "ACP must brace up for what replaces Lome pact," PANAFRICAN NEWS AGENCY,
28 April 1999.


The U.S. House Ways & Means Committee last week voted to extend the
Caribbean Basin Initiative to provide duty-free access for imports of
Caribbean textiles and apparel (although fabric must originate from the

 "U.S. House panel approves Caribbean trade bill," ASSOCAITED PRESS, 18
May 1999.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) last month appointed Ms. Meg
Taylor to the newly-created post of Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman - charged
with improving environmental and social performance of private sector
institutions receiving IFC funding.

 "IFC World Bank appoints new environmental officer," GALLON ENVIRONMENT
LETTER, 22 April 1999.

A grouping of U.S. independent oil producers - the "Committee to Save
Domestic Oil," announced it would file an anti-dumping complaint against
at least four oil producing nations: Venezuela, Mexico, Iraq and Kuwait.
The group alleges that governments of the targeted countries maintain
pricing policies designed to drive U.S. producers out of business.
 "U.S. oil companies to file anti-dumping complaint," FINANCIAL TIMES, 19
May 1999.

The EU this month refused to lift a ban on fish imports imposed on 30
March from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda after three deaths were linked to
East African fish caught with the use of pesticides. The EU wants further
assurances around government control of fishing activities and full
studies of the pesticides allegedly used by fishmongers.

 "Europe bans East African fish caught with poison," ENS, 13 May 1999.

The Sustainable Agriculture/Food Systems (SAFS) Farmer/NGO caucus is
preparing recommendations for agriculture-related topics to be considered
for next year's dialogues session at the Commission on Sustainable
Development (April 2000). The SAFS caucus is asking for comments on
proposed topics.

 For information, contact, fax: (1-202) 778-6134.


The U.S and Canada will seek formal permission to impose sanctions against
the EU in the beef hormone row at a WTO Dispute Settlement Body on 3 June.
A U.S. spokesperson said in Geneva last week that the U.S. would ask for a
green light on imposing sanctions worth US$202 million. Canada had
informed the WTO last week of their intention to procede likewise on
imports of EU goods worth an additional US$51 million. The EC has said it
will challenge the U.S. amount, setting the scene for WTO arbitration
which could last until mid-July.

 "US seeks June 3 WTO meeting on beef sanctions," REUTERS, 18 May 1999;
ICTSD Internal Files.

Estonia last week successfully concluded accession talks to become the
135th member of the WTO.
 "Estonia to become 135th member of WTO," WTO PRESS RELEASE, 21 May 1999.

Australian and New Zealand trade officials are warning the Clinton
Administration against imposing import restrictions on lamb imports in
advance of the WTO talks on agriculture to be launched later this year.
(See BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest Vol. 3, No. 6, 15 February 1999.)
U.S. lamb industry officials also rejected an Australian-New Zealand offer
to create a joint marketing campaign geared toward boosting U.S. demand
for lamb.

 "U.S. industry rejects proposed deal to solve fight over lamb imports,"
INSIDE US TRADE, 7 May 1999.

India last week announced that four major trade and industry organisations
would be part of its delegation to WTO Ministerial in Seattle. The
government faced domestic criticism after the Uruguay Round for not
consulting with domestic industry representatives.

 "India enlists industry to boost WTO role," JOURNAL OF COMMERCE, 20 May

New Zealand's government has invitated public comment regarding the
development of the agenda for future multilateral trade negotiations, ie
on areas New Zealand might seek to include in a proposed Millennium Round
of trade negotiations, as well as comments on any trade barriers faced by
New Zealand producers in foreign markets.

 "Request for public comment: New Zealand's Approach to further
multilateral trade negotiations," New Zealand Parliamentary Press Release,
April 1999.

The Danish Parliament on 11 May adopted a resolution on a new global trade
round. The resolution called, inter alia, for duty-free market access for
goods from least developed countries; WTO acceptance of the precautionary
principle; promotion of ILO Conventions, and an improved dispute
settlement mechanism. ICTSD Internal Files.


John Audley, currently Director of International Affairs at the National
Wildlife Federation (NWF) in Washington, DC will move in the next few
weeks to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with responsibility on
the agency's trade and environment dossier.

Juan de Castro, head and original spinner of the UNCTAD BIOTRADE project
resigned by means of a vociferous letter this week in Geneva. The BIOTRADE
initiative, at first controversial, has been gaining momentum lately,
attracting funding from diverse and innovative sources and establishing
partnerships with governments, academia, business and ngos.

BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest) is published by the 
International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development 
(ICTSD) with support from the Institute for Agriculture and 
Trade Policy (IATP). This issue has been researched by Hugo 
Cameron and Marie Chamay; written by Judy Brienza (IATP) 
and edited by Caroline Dommen, The 
Director is Ricardo Melendez-Ortiz, 
ICTSD is an independent, not-for-profit organization based 
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