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Business Envoy March 2015 – LNG investment

In this issue

Global perspectives from Australia's diplomatic network

From Beijing: Cleaning up government corruption

The Chinese leadership continues to reinforce its anti-corruption campaign, announcing it would focus in 2015 on state-owned enterprises (SOEs), senior officials and economic fugitives. In 2014, 71,000 officials were punished for corruptionrelated offences, including 68 at the vice minister-level or above. The People's Republic of China State Council continues to emphasise government frugality and less red tape, to reduce avenues for official graft and to make the overall business environment more predictable. Premier Li Keqiang's work report for 2015 – which he will deliver at the annual session of China's National People's Congress on 5 March – will reveal more detail of the Chinese leadership's economic and governance reform plans.

From Jakarta: Keeping a tight lid on resource exports

The Joko Widodo administration remains committed to the export ban on raw materials and the creation of a domestic smelting industry in Indonesia. Notably, it is pressing forward in enforcing the Memoranda of Understanding negotiated with Indonesia's two largest mining companies in the last days of the Yudhoyono administration, which has taken many by surprise.

Other companies that began negotiations with the Yudhoyono administration should expect the Widodo government to continue where the last government left off. Further, Indonesia's Constitutional Court recently upheld the controversial ban on the export of raw minerals, which ended what many regarded as the 'last hope' for overturning the ban. Domestic legal avenues for redress now appear to have been exhausted.

From Kuala Lumpur: Meeting Asia's 'silver tsunami' challenge

With the number of people over the age of 65 in Asia predicted to triple by 2050, governments are struggling to look after the complex and diverse needs of their elderly citizens. Having acknowledged the impending challenges of this so-called 'silver tsunami', the Malaysian government has identified aged care as a policy priority with a particular focus on retirement living, aged care facilities and mobile health services.

New regulatory frameworks expected to be announced in 2015 are eagerly awaited by local developers looking to tap into the growing demand for housing solutions tailored for the over 60s.

Solutions to these challenges will rely heavily on the private sector and Australia is well-placed to work with Malaysian companies to address these challenges. Austrade in Kuala Lumpur promotes Australia's seniors living capabilities through the Empowering the Elderly initiative and at least ten Australian companies are now successfully doing business in Malaysia's seniors living sector.

From London: UK investment continues to surge

The UK economy has recovered from the financial crisis and is growing strongly compared to other G7 economies. There has been a strong continuing pipeline of UK direct investment into Australia.

We expect this to continue in 2015. UK pension funds have shown a strong interest in investing in Australia as they look for stable, long-term yields. UK tourism infrastructure investors have also been upbeat about continuing opportunities in Australia flowing from the growth of the middle class in Asia. A period of uncertainty is likely in the lead-up to the UK general elections in May but, as no fundamental change to UK policy settings are expected, it should not impact on UK investment to Australia. There are some concerns in the UK that Australia's economic growth may slow due to weakening commodity prices and slowing Chinese growth. However, given the lower rates of growth in the UK's major EU markets, Australia remains attractive both as an individual market and as a gateway to growing markets in Asia. The UK also remains a key market for Australian firms and is very much open to foreign investment, although UK restrictions on skilled migration may complicate attempts by Australian firms to set up in the UK.

From New Delhi: India's IORA ambitions

India's key priority for the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) in 2015 is to work with Australia to deliver the Second Indian Ocean Dialogue. The Dialogue brings together academics and governments to discuss the geostrategic significance of the Indian Ocean region. It was established during India's time as Chair and India hopes it will become a key annual event in the IORA calendar. India also prioritises enhanced student mobility in the IORA region, increased cultural initiatives and deeper business-to-business engagement, including direct participation by business leaders. These aims complement Australia's strategic priorities as Chair of IORA, which are maritime security and safety, sustainable economic growth and institutional reform of IORA. The Indian Ocean is playing an increasingly significant role in the prosperity of Australia and our major trading partners, with half the world's container traffic traversing its surface and over two billion people living in the region.

From Tokyo: Japan's economic reform juggernaut

Since the Liberal Democratic Party's election win in December, Prime Minister Abe has reiterated his commitment to economic reform. Areas likely to move forward in 2015 include wages, labour practices, trade, corporate governance, corporate tax, regional revitalisation and agriculture. Low and negative economic growth is regarded as one of Japan's most pressing economic issues.

Following negotiations between government, labour and business leaders, peak business association Keidanren agreed that the business community would "do its best" to increase wages in the spring wage negotiations. This was an important shift and demonstrated business support for the government's agenda.

Amendments to the Basic Labour Law are also being introduced to improve worker well-being and productivity through, among other areas, expanded flex-time and overtime arrangements and new performance pay work systems. The government has announced it plans to bring the corporate tax rate down to below 30 per cent over the next few years.

From Washington: Port dispute costing exports and income

Until an agreement between port operators and unions was brokered by US Secretary of Labor Perez in February, all US west coast ports had been operating below capacity due to a long running management/labour dispute.

Small and medium sized US businesses have been particularly affected by the dispute, and US agricultural producers fear permanent loss of export markets from the dispute and other bottlenecks at west coast ports. Stakeholders claim that the dispute has been costing the US economy millions of dollars per day. More generally, underinvestment in port infrastructure upgrades also threatens US competitiveness.

Stakeholders are calling for an immediate need to deepen and widen navigation channels and for better on-dock rail and truck access. It is notable that approximately 45 per cent of the Australia–US trade in goods flows through the affected ports.

From Wellington: Drought hits NZ agriculture

In February, Primary Industries Minister Guy declared a drought in the east coast of New Zealand's (NZ) South Island. Other regions are also dry and further declarations may follow.

The drought is expected to reduce the country's agricultural production activity, exports and potentially impact the government's fiscal accounts. It will especially hurt dairy producers as the declared drought area accounts for around one fifth of NZ's dairy production. It is also expected to push up global milk prices, which could benefit Australian cheese manufacturers.

Over the short term, it could create heightened competition for Australian beef and lamb exports and soften NZ demand for Australian goods and services. Over the longer term, Australian expertise in water reserves, particularly irrigation and storage, might be employed.

Tradecraft: Australia-India Comprehensive Economic Co-operation Agreement

The Comprehensive Economic Co-operation Agreement (CECA) negotiations with India, which began in May 2011, are gathering momentum.

In November 2014, during a bilateral visit to Australia, Indian Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Abbott jointly directed that "an equitable, balanced, mutually beneficial and high quality Comprehensive Economic Co-operation Agreement be brought to an early conclusion to realise the potential of commercial relations." A month later, officials from both countries met for a comprehensive round (the sixth) of CECA negotiations in New Delhi.

In January 2015, Trade and Investment Minister Robb concluded Australia Business Week in India (ABWI): a week-long roadshow designed to boost trade and investment between the two countries, with a declaration that Australia and India were "on the cusp of a new dawn in their commercial relationship." Minister Robb led a trade mission of more than 450 Australian business leaders – the largest ever trade delegation to India – and had high-level meetings with Prime Minister Modi, Finance Minister Jaitley and Commerce and Industry Minister Sitharaman, in which he discussed the CECA negotiations.

The Australian and Indian governments have both made clear their intention to conclude the agreement by the end of 2015. Negotiations are expected to accelerate and Australian officials are intensifying engagement with their Indian counterparts across the board. DFAT continues to encourage anyone with an interest in the CECA to lodge or update submissions on our website:

India: a new era of opportunity

Ambassador's corner // Patrick Suckling, Australian High Commissioner to India

Patrick Suckling

Backed by political leadership at the highest level, and buttressed by expanding links between people in both our countries, the Australia–India relationship is soaring to new heights.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi captured this new dynamic in November last year, when he made the first visit to Australia by an Indian Prime Minister in 28 years. He told the Australian Parliament that India sees Australia as "a major partner in every area of our national priority." The President of India, Pranab Mukherjee – who has spent decades in the upper echelons of public life – recently said that India–Australia relations have hit an all-time high.

We have seen a vivid demonstration of this over the last six months. Australia and India have signed a civil nuclear agreement and developed a new framework for security co-operation. We have signed a raft of agreements to intensify collaboration across priority areas, including science, education, social security, culture and tourism.

We have opened a window of opportunity in the bilateral relationship. Now we have to capitalise on it.

Economic ties between our countries are growing, but they remain comparatively modest with two way trade sitting at approximately $15 billion a year compared to $150 billion with China. There is vast potential to expand our economic relationship, and create new opportunities for growth and prosperity in both Australia and India.

There is burgeoning interest in India within Australia.

In January this year the Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb led the largest ever Australian business delegation to India – over 450 business leaders from all our major sectors, including mining, agriculture, water, tourism, infrastructure, skills and education, and financial services.

They came to India because they sensed the moment was right. India's economy is surging ahead, while other big developing markets slow.

The IMF has forecast that India will soon become the world's fastest growing major economy.

Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Tony Abbott also share a common vision for economic development driven by trade, investment and liberalisation. Prime Minister Modi has taken concrete steps to lift employment and growth.

He has pledged to lift India into the top 50 of the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business list. He has also implemented reforms in several key areas needed to stimulate growth in India, including in governance, land acquisition, labour law, foreign investment, subsidies and financial inclusion.

This vision is not contained to India's national government – several vibrant state governments have also embraced pro-growth policies to liberalise their economies and encourage foreign investment.

And no-one should lose sight of how inexorable demographic forces will continue to power India's growth in the coming decades. Workforces around the globe are starting to shrink while India's is projected to grow for at least another generation – a potential 300 million young people will enter the Indian workforce over the next two decades. By mid-century India's population is likely to reach 1.6 billion people, while China's population will remain steady at 1.3 billion.

In other words, India presents an opportunity which Australian business cannot afford to miss. There is a growing recognition of this reality in Australia. The revitalised Australia India CEO Forum attracted a stellar line-up of business leaders from both countries, and will be led by the CEO of Rio Tinto, Sam Walsh, and Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani. It's another sign that Australia and India are beginning to recognise one another as natural economic partners across several sectors.

Take the mining and resources industry. India's appetite for energy will continue to grow and Australia is well placed to help India achieve energy security. The Australian Government is considering approvals for more than $16 billion in Indian coal investments in Queensland. The coal produced will help bring power to more than 100 million consumers in India as well as to industry and has the potential to create 5000 construction jobs and 4000 jobs during production in Australia.

There's also growing Indian interest in Australia's massive reserves of LNG, as the agreement signed earlier this year by Woodside and Adani demonstrates. And of course Australia can share the technology, expertise and capital that will help unlock India's own vast mineral and resources endowment.

Australia and India are both world renowned agriculture producers. We see India as a major market for our premium products such as pulses, wool, dairy and wine. But we also want to help Indian producers make the investments in technology, logistics and storage that will ensure strong future growth.

Australian banks and pension funds have the world's third-largest pool of funds under management – currently some $2.5 trillion – and there is an obvious match with India's multi-trillion dollar infrastructure development needs.

There is a real opportunity for Australian businesses to look at investing in India in answer to the rallying cry from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to 'Make in India.'

We have opened a window of opportunity in the bilateral relationship. Now we have to capitalise on it.

Of course, there are still regulatory hurdles to doing business in India. But it's important to recognise that the winds of change are blowing and that Prime Minister Modi is leading a concerted effort across government to make it easier to invest in India.

The key to success in India is persistence. It's crucial to develop strong relationships and this requires repeated face to face meetings to build credibility and demonstrate integrity, consistency and reliability.

As Sam Walsh observed when he took the reins of the Australia India CEO Forum, India has "the people, geography, and political frameworks to be a powerhouse economic force." India promises to deliver rewards for decades to come to Australian businesses which take the plunge and make a serious, long-term commitment.

Australian LNG projects

Projects in operation

  • Projects: 4
  • Production: 32.8 mtpa*
  • Investment: $93.4 billion


  • Online: 2012
  • Production: 4.3 mtpa
  • Budget: $15.3 billion
  • Partners: Woodside, Kansai Electric, Tokyo Gas

North West Shelf

  • Online: 1989
  • Production: 16.3 mtpa
  • Budget: $52.5 billion
  • Partners: Woodside, BHP Billiton, BP, Chevron, Shell, MIMI

Darwin LNG

  • Online: 2005
  • Production: 3.7 mtpa
  • Budget: $1.9 billion
  • Partners: ConocoPhillips, Inpex, Eni, Santos, Tokyo Electric, Tokyo Gas

Queensland Curtis LNG

  • Online: 2014
  • Production: 8.5 mtpa
  • Budget: $23.7 billion
  • Partners: BG Group, CNOOC

Projects under construction

  • Projects: 6
  • Production: 52.6 mtpa*
  • Investment: $176.3 billion

Wheat stone

  • Online: 2016
  • Production: 8.9 mtpa
  • Budget: $29 billion
  • Partners: Chevron, Apache, KUFPEC , Shell, Kyushu Electric Power Company, PE Wheatstone


  • Online: 2015
  • Production: 15 mtpa
  • Budget: $54 billion
  • Partners: Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell


  • Online: 2017
  • Production: 3.5 mtpa
  • Budget: $13 billion
  • Partners: Shell


  • Online: 2016
  • Production: 8.4 mtpa
  • Budget: $34 billion
  • Partners: Inpex, Total

Australia Pacific LNG

  • Online: 2015
  • Production: 9 mtpa
  • Budget: $24.7 billion
  • Partners: Origin Energy, ConocoPhillips, Sinopec

Gladstone LNG

  • Online: 2015
  • Production: 7.8 mtpa
  • Budget: $21.6 billion
  • Partners: Santos, Petronas, Total, Kogas

Data source: APPEA

Economic Assessment: LNG investment in Australia – a silver lining in the low oil price dark cloud

Economic assessment // Investment & Economics Branch

Many liquefied natural gas (LNG) contracts are linked to oil prices and the extended period of low oil prices means some LNG investment decisions could be delayed. This provides Australia with an opportunity to reassert the investment credentials of its LNG industry.

LNG investment in Australia is at a peak. With several LNG projects currently under construction, Australia is projected to become the world's largest exporter of LNG in the next three years.

Further investment in Australia's LNG capacity, however, had been hindered by perceptions of high project costs and competing investment opportunities in North America, Russia and East Africa.

Australia is considered by some as a high‑cost producer of LNG because of the remote location of reserves, high labour costs, complex environmental and social acceptance processes and, up until recently, the high value of the Australian dollar. The cost of constructing new LNG capacity in Australia varies from US$2.6 billion to US$4.4 billion per million tonnes of annual capacity. This compares to projects like Sabine Pass in the United States with a cost of US$0.7 billion per million tonnes of annual capacity.

The recent fall in oil prices is likely to make investment challenging in any new LNG capacity, with large international oil companies, which are typically large shareholders in LNG projects, facing reduced cash flows and profitability. LNG projects that have not yet received a final investment decision are the most likely to be affected.

At times of lower oil prices, oil companies tend to reduce capital expenditure: Royal Dutch Shell, Occidental Petroleum and ConocoPhillips have pledged to slash spending by almost US$10 billion in 2015; weak prices forced Malaysia's Petronas to defer a decision to build an LNG terminal in Canada; and Santos and BHP Billiton have recently flagged cuts to capital expenditure in response to sharp falls in international oil prices.

Australia is considered by some as a high cost producer of LNG because of the remote location of reserves, high labour costs, complex environmental and social acceptance processes and, up until recently, the high value of the Australian dollar.

Should oil prices delay LNG investment globally, Australia could be given a window to increase the competitiveness of its LNG industry.

Expectations of lower long-term LNG prices would reduce expected returns from LNG projects and would make it harder to justify a positive final investment decision for new LNG capacity.

Should oil prices delay LNG investment globally, Australia could be given a window to increase the competitiveness of its LNG industry.

The Australian Government has and continues to initiate reviews and reforms to lower costs and provide a more business-friendly environment.

Implementation of initiatives under the forthcoming Energy White Paper – a one-stop shop for environmental approvals, a reduction in regulatory burden and the removal of the carbon tax – all contribute to increasing the competitiveness of Australian industry.

We expect reduced competition for labour as project construction ends over the next two years, putting downward pressure on labour costs.

Raw material costs will be lower because we do not expect the remainder of the decade to see the high commodity prices of the past few years.

Falls in the price of iron ore (for steel production) and other metals will mean lower costs for raw materials used in the construction of LNG plants.

The high Australian dollar was an important contributor to cost inflation of Australian LNG projects. When the Australian dollar appreciated, Australian dollar project costs (labour and locally produced inputs) increased when they were paid out of US dollar denominated accounts. Chevron stated that around one third of the rise in costs at the Gorgon project (from $37 billion to $54 billion) were due to the high Australian dollar. But with the Australian dollar's value expected to decrease from the levels seen between 2011 and 2014, this will change.

A temporary pause in investment decisions would allow Australian projects currently under construction to reach production, including allowing operators time to commission the new LNG projects so that they run optimally.

Brownfield expansion of Australian LNG projects would give the sector an advantage over new greenfield projects.

In turn, owners will be able to focus on taking advantage of project economies of scale through brownfield expansion. For example, the majority of Australian LNG projects under construction have scope for additional LNG trains.

Brownfield expansion of Australian LNG projects would give the sector an advantage over new greenfield projects, particularly those in East Africa and Canada.

Brownfield expansion offers owners opportunities to increase capacity with cost savings of up to 40 per cent relative to greenfield projects.

Cost savings can arise from, for example, additional liquefaction capacity which can be added without the cost of site preparation and access, and increased use of existing storage, port infrastructure, existing water and electricity connections.

India's outlook for LNG imports

India's LNG import demand is forecast to increase rapidly. Despite Australia and India already being important players in international LNG markets, bilateral trade and investment between the two countries is limited. Increasing the LNG bilateral relationship will be dependent on India's reforms of its domestic gas market, and alternative gas import and competition from other suppliers.

In 2012, India's gas consumption was 57 billion cubic metres (bcm) accounting for around 6 per cent of primary energy consumption (IEA 2014). The share of gas in India's energy mix is lower than many other major economies due to limited domestic production, competition from coal, and gas pricing policies that do not support higher priced imports. India imported around 18 bcm of LNG in 2013, making it the world's fourth largest LNG importer. Eighty-six per cent of India's LNG imports are sourced from Qatar (BP 2014) reflecting the geographic proximity.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) projects India's gas demand to increase by three and a half fold, reaching 202 bcm in 2040. India's gas production won't keep pace with demand growth and its dependence on imports will increase from 31 per cent of demand in 2012 to 45 per cent in 2040 (IEA 2014).

India recognises its increasing gas import needs and has set about securing long term supplies, including from Australia and the US.

Indian interests are also investigating pipeline options from the Middle East and Central Asia and running through Pakistan. However, pipeline options have been delayed owing to geopolitical and technical challenges.

The pace of India's gas demand growth will ultimately depend on domestic gas market reform. Prices that are paid by consumers will need to be high enough to encourage investment in production and/or make imports economic. Low gas prices in India are one reason why Indian LNG buyers are not significant buyers of Australian LNG. There are positive signs with the Modi administration increasing gas prices in October 2014 and signalling six-monthly revisions. Ongoing pricing reforms will be welcomed by the industry.

Prospects for Australian LNG are positive because of Australia's reputation as a reliable supplier, its political stability, and its direct and safe sea route to India. However, future Australian sales of LNG to India will depend on both India's gas market reforms and on competition from the US and East Africa.

India has already secured 4.8 bcm a year from the US. This was attractive to India because US LNG export prices based on Henry Hub pricing were considered to be cheaper than Australian oil-linked LNG prices, even allowing for longer shipping distances. However, the fall in global oil prices means that oil-linked LNG prices are now comparable or more competitive compared with those based on Henry Hub pricing.

Recent gas discoveries off the coast of East Africa have created additional competition for future Australian LNG exports. Gas supply from East Africa is attractive to India because of the relatively short shipping distance. However, the development of these discoveries will be complex, noting the absence of existing regulatory frameworks and the lack of infrastructure or a skilled workforce. In addition, the fall in global oil prices has resulted in oil and gas companies reducing capital expenditure for exploration and project development.


  • BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2014
  • IEA World Energy Outlook 2014

For more information on this article contact

For more information on business opportunities in India contact or call 13 28 78 (within Australia).

Economic highlights

Oil prices were down 50 per cent in February from June 2014 levels (down almost 60 per cent in January) and are at near six-year lows due to sluggish global demand, unchanged OPEC production and booming US shale production.

Lower oil prices mean lower transport and energy costs for business and consumers and reduced costs for Australian exporters and importers.

Greece's new government secured a four‑month extension to present a debt repayment plan to the Troika (European Central Bank, European Commission and the International Monetary Fund) representing creditors. The extension will help support stability in European financial markets, but volatility in euro exchange rates is likely to remain.

The US Federal Reserve reaffirmed in February that it would remain 'patient' in starting to raise interest rates in response to a strengthening US economy. It noted that while the drop in oil prices will have negative effects on US energy producers, it will likely be a significant overall net gain for the US economy. A cautious approach to interest rates will be conducive to a more stable environment in international financial markets and support the growing US demand for Australian exports.

Rating agency Moody's cut Russia's credit rating to junk status (Ba1) in February, citing political factors. This follows Russia's credit rating downgrade by Standard & Poor's to below investment grade (BB+) in January. The message to investors is clear – international sanctions and low oil prices are biting and Russia is now a high-risk market.

China's leadership has adopted the term 'new normal' to characterise the transition of the Chinese economy to a more sustainable, slower growth rate. China's economy grew by 7.4 per cent in 2014, its slowest growth rate since 1990. Australia's exports to China are expected to continue to grow, but at a slower pace.

Key statistics

Top export & import countries/regions
Country/region $ billion 2013-14 % Growth (YoY)
China $107.5 ↑26.9
Japan $51.0 ↑4.8
Republic of Korea $22.5 ↑8.2
United States $17.0 ↑14.8
New Zealand $11.5 ↑6.4
ASEAN $37.1 ↑10.1
EU28 $21.8 ↓10.1
China $52.1 ↑12.4
United States $41.2 ↑2.9
Japan $21.2 ↑2.2
Singapore $18.6 ↓2.8
Germany $13.9 ↑11.7
ASEAN $61.8 ↑5.8
EU28 $61.5 ↑8.0
Australia's trade by broad sector
Country/region $ billion 2014 % Growth (YoY)
Exports (total) $326.7 ↑2.4
Rural $40.5 ↑6.9
Minerals & fuels $157.9 ↑0.4
Manufactures $42.7 ↑4.4
Other goods $12.2 ↓2.2
Gold $14.2 ↓5.2
Services $59.2 ↑6.8
Imports (total) $336.6 ↑2.2
Two-way trade $663.3 ↑2.3
Balance of Trade $-9.9 ↓4.2
Top Exports & Imports
Country/region $ billion 2014 % Growth (YoY)
Iron ore and concentrates $66.2 ↓4.8
Coal $38.0 ↓4.5
Natural gas $17.8 ↑22.0
Education services $16.7 ↑11.2
Personal travel (ex education) $14.2 ↑8.2
Personal travel (ex education) $24.8 0.0
Crude petroleum $20.3 ↑0.3
Refined petroleum $18.7 ↑2.5
Passenger motor vehicles $17.6 ↓3.9
Telecom equipment & parts $9.9 ↑8.6
Australia's international investment position
Country/region $ billion as at 2013 % Growth (YoY)
Foreign investment in Australia
United States $657.9 ↑14.3
United Kingdom $562.9 ↑14.6
Japan $131.0 ↑2.5
Singapore $60.5 ↑6.6
Hong Kong (SAR China) $51.3 ↑11.0
World $2462.0 ↑11.3
ASEAN $85.8 ↑5.9
EU28 $716.0 ↑11.8
Australian investment abroad
United States $471.7 ↑18.6
United Kingdom $255.7 ↑17.9
New Zealand $81.1 ↑5.6
Germany $56.5 ↑15.5
Canada $53.7 ↑25.5
World $1632.2 ↑17.9
ASEAN $69.4 ↑29.3
EU28 $455.8 ↑16.2

Source: ABS. For more Australian trade and investment statistics see:


Business Envoy brings insights from Australia's global diplomatic network to the Australian business community. It considers global geopolitical events and trends, their economic implications and what they might mean for Australian business.

Business Envoy is produced by the Economic Advocacy & Analysis Branch of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Any views expressed within are those of DFAT officers and not the views of the Australian Government.

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Last Updated: 2 March 2015
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