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More evidence Covid WAS engineered in a lab?

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Posted on 24 October 2022.

Another explosive study dismisses natural origin theory – but experts say it’s just more ‘uninformed nonsense’ –

Comment: Jus wonderin – Is this a case of ‘Follow the Money’?

Researchers studied Covid’s genome and compared it to other coronaviruses

Team detected ‘peculiar patterns’ that are hallmarks of a man-made virus, they say

Dr Alex Washburne said the lab leak theory can’t be ruled out based on results

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The coronavirus was likely made in a lab, according to the latest explosive study to shed light on the possible origins of the pandemic.

Researchers in the US and Germany studied Covid’s genome — the virus’ instruction manual — and compared it to dozens of previously detected coronaviruses.

‘Peculiar patterns’ were visible in the building blocks of the pandemic-causing virus, which they say are hallmark signs that it was manufactured. The team described it as having a ‘synthetic fingerprint’.

Study author Dr. Alex Washburne, a mathematical biologist, said the lab leak theory can’t be ruled out based on the results of his controversial study.

Each test his team performed ‘decreased the odds of SARS-CoV-2 having a natural origin’, he said.

However, Dr Washburne noted his team don’t identify which lab that was the source of the outbreak and insisted that the virus looks more ‘like an accident’ rather than a ‘bioweapon’.

Some experts called the results ‘troubling’ and claimed they offered the ‘strongest piece of evidence’ yet that the virus was man-made. 

But dozens of others, including leaders in the field, have hit out at the findings, sparking a fierce row. One virologist said the research is ‘so deeply flawed that it wouldn’t pass kindergarten molecular biology’. 

Another said the study was ‘very poorly controlled, cherry-picked and making a big deal out of lumps and bumps that are of no significance to the virus’. One described it as ‘tinfoil-hat bonkers’.

The study is the latest addition to the fierce argument around how the virus came to sweep the world in 2020.

Most leading virologists believe the coronavirus jumped to humans from an infected animal, potentially in the ‘ground zero’ wet market in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Others think it leaked from a secretive laboratory in the same city. Whether or not it was deliberate or accidental is an even more contentious part of the ‘lab leak’ theory.

Scientists argue it is vital to find out the origins of the virus so steps can be taken to prevent future pandemics. But many doubt the root source of the pandemic will ever be uncovered, with China accused of trying to conceal investigations.

Researchers in the US and Germany studied Covid's genome ¿ the virus' instruction manual ¿ and compared it to dozens of previously detected coronaviruses. The team detected a 'peculiar patterns' in the building blocks of the pandemic-causing virus, which they say are hallmarks that it was manufactured in a lab. These include a more organised structure than naturally-occurring viruses and mutations that suggest the virus was assembled in a lab. Study author Dr Alex Washburne, a mathematical biologist, said the lab leak theory can't be ruled out based on the results of his controversial study. However, he noted his team don't identify which lab that was the source of the outbreak. Pictured: the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is at the centre of the lab leak theory

Researchers in the US and Germany studied Covid’s genome — the virus’ instruction manual — and compared it to dozens of previously detected coronaviruses. The team detected a ‘peculiar patterns’ in the building blocks of the pandemic-causing virus, which they say are hallmarks that it was manufactured in a lab. These include a more organised structure than naturally-occurring viruses and mutations that suggest the virus was assembled in a lab. Study author Dr Alex Washburne, a mathematical biologist, said the lab leak theory can’t be ruled out based on the results of his controversial study. However, he noted his team don’t identify which lab that was the source of the outbreak. Pictured: the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is at the centre of the lab leak theory

The top graph shows the average length of the longest fragment in a coronavirus genome (shown by grey line in the middle of bars). The coloured dots show the longest fragment length in the genome of Covid (red) and 10 other genetically engineered coronaviruses. The researchers said Covid's longest genome segment length is 'well below' what would be expected if the virus had evolved naturally and 'right within the narrow range of fragment number we find in engineered coronaviruses'. The bottom graph compares the virus fragment length in relation to how many standard deviations ¿ the difference from the average length ¿ the lab-made viruses are from naturally occurring coronaviruses. The researchers said this shows Covid 'appears more likely to have been engineered' than other viruses that are known to be man-made

The top graph shows the average length of the longest fragment in a coronavirus genome (shown by grey line in the middle of bars). The coloured dots show the longest fragment length in the genome of Covid (red) and 10 other genetically engineered coronaviruses. The researchers said Covid’s longest genome segment length is ‘well below’ what would be expected if the virus had evolved naturally and ‘right within the narrow range of fragment number we find in engineered coronaviruses’. The bottom graph compares the virus fragment length in relation to how many standard deviations — the difference from the average length — the lab-made viruses are from naturally occurring coronaviruses. The researchers said this shows Covid ‘appears more likely to have been engineered’ than other viruses that are known to be man-made 

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DID COVID LEAK FROM A WUHAN LAB? THE EVIDENCE FOR AND AGAINST 

Evidence for Wuhan lab-leak theory

An article in the respected Science journal on May 14 2021 kick-started the surge in interest for the lab-leak theory.

Some 18 experts wrote in the journal that ‘we must take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spillovers seriously until we have sufficient data’.

Later that month, a study by British Professor Angus Dalgleish and Norwegian scientist Dr Birger Sørensen claimed it had ‘prima facie evidence of retro-engineering in China’ for a year.

The study included accusations of ‘deliberate destruction, concealment or contamination of data’ at Chinese labs.

It followed statements from the WHO Director General, US and EU that greater clarity about the origins of this pandemic is necessary and feasible to achieve.

Previously, the theory had been dismissed as conspiracy by most experts, partly because of its association with President Donald Trump.

President Joe Biden in May 2021 ordered a full investigation into the origin of the pandemic virus and demanded scientists work out whether there is truth to the theory.

In December 2021, Harvard scientist Dr. Alina Chan told the UK’s Science and Technology Select Committee that it is ‘reasonable’ to believe that Covid was genetically engineered in China. 

She also said that the Chinese Communist Party’s cover-up of the initial outbreak in Wuhan two years ago and attempts to sabotage the World Health Organisation’s inquiry into the origins of the pandemic made the lab-leak theory likely. 

The head of the World Health Organization insisted just a day earlier that the theory that Covid emerged from a Wuhan lab has not been ruled out — as he said China should help solve the mystery out of ‘respect’ for the dead.

The body’s director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, suggested that Beijing had not cooperated fully as he urged more ‘transparency’ in the continuing investigation.

And a senior Government source claimed in June 2022 that the WHO boss privately believes the pandemic kicked off following a leak from a Chinese lab. 

In September 2022, leading medical journal the Lancet admitted the virus may have been leaked from a lab, including those in the US. 

Evidence against the theory

Most of the scientific community say the virus is most likely of natural origin.

A series of papers point to the virus evolving in animals before being transmitted to humans, in the same way as all other previously discovered coronaviruses.

The first study, published in Scientific Reports, showed some 47,000 wild animals from 38 species were sold across four markets in Wuhan between May 2017 and November 2019.

The authors, including Dr Chris Newman, an evolutionary ecologist at Oxford University, claimed the evidence showed the conditions for animal-to-human transmission were in place in Wuhan.

But they acknowledged there was no proof Sars-CoV-2 was present or originated in any of these animals.

A joint World Health Organization-China investigation also concluded it was ‘very likely’ the virus jumped from bats to humans via an as-yet-unknown intermediary animal.

And a June 2022 report by the WHO sets out that Covid most likely originated in bats before infecting humans.

The scientists, including Dr Washburne from Montana-based research institute Selva Analytics and Professor Antonius VanDongen, a pharmacology expert at Duke University, in North Carolina examined the SARS-CoV-2 genome — the virus’ genetic material.

The team also included Valentin Bruttel, an immunologist who is attached to the gynecology department at the University of Würzburg in Germany. 

While human genomes are made of double-stranded DNA and are 3billion letters long, Covid has a single short RNA strand that is just 30,000 letters long.

Some researchers create viruses in lab experiments to study how they behave and develop drugs and vaccines to treat them, in case of an outbreak.

They do this by making small segments of the viral genome and stitching them together — with the joins known as restriction sites. 

While restriction sites tend to be randomly scattered throughout the genomes of naturally-occurring viruses, scientists building a virus in a lab add more in and tend to spread them out evenly, according to the researchers. 

To determine whether Covid evolved naturally or was manufactured, the team looked at the number and length of stitching points in Covid’s genome to compare it to 70 coronaviruses found in nature, as well as man-made versions.

Their findings, published on the pre-print website bioRxiv, set out that the pattern of Covid’s restriction sites are ‘typical’ of man-made viruses and different from naturally-occurring coronaviruses.

They found that the restriction sites on Covid’s genome were evenly spread rather than randomly spaced out, making it an ‘outlier’.

Meanwhile, the average length of Covid’s genome fragments were the smallest out of the dozens of coronaviruses that the researchers looked at.

Covid also has so-called silent mutations in its restriction sites, which are a hallmark of a manufactured virus, according to the researchers. 

It is ‘is extremely unlikely’ this ‘synthetic fingerprint’ appeared ‘by random evolution’, they wrote.

The experts concluded Covid’s genome is similar to ‘many’ engineered coronavirus genomes and ‘differs from closest relatives’ found in nature.   

They wrote: ‘We report a high likelihood that SARS-CoV-2 may have originated as an infectious clone assembled. 

‘The type of mutations (synonymous or silent mutations) that differentiate the restriction sites in SARS-CoV-2 are characteristic of engineering.

‘And the concentration of these silent mutations in the restriction sites is extremely unlikely to have arisen by random evolution.

‘Both the restriction site fingerprint and the pattern of mutations generating them are extremely unlikely in wild coronaviruses and nearly universal in synthetic viruses. 

‘Our findings strongly suggest a synthetic origin of SARS-CoV2.’

And they called for more research to investigate the origins of the virus, noting that ‘further tests may reject our theory’. 

The team noted they could have drawn on a wider pool of coronaviruses to compare Covid against to better understand similarities and differences. 

Nonetheless, Dr Washburne said the lab leak theory — which certain corners of the scientific community have repeatedly tried to dismiss since the beginnings of the pandemic — can’t be ruled out based on the results of this study.

However, he noted that his team do not identify which lab that was the source of the outbreak. This would also be near impossible. 

And he said the virus ‘looks like an accident’ rather than being a ‘bioweapon’ or gain of function research — modifying organisms to enhance how they work, such as making a virus more deadly or more transmissible. 

But he drew parallels with a recent controversial study at Boston University, which saw scientists create a hybrid Covid strain — combining the original strain and Omicron — that killed 80 percent of mice in a study. 

Dr Washburne said: ‘Making chimeric viruses in vitro [in a lab] carries risks.

‘We encourage transparency from researchers studying CoVs in Wuhan. We strongly encourage global coordination on biosafety.’

Mr Bruttel told German TV channel n-tv that the results ‘show that this virus is 99.9 percent an artificially created copy of a natural virus’.                                                                              

While China has insisted the virus originated elsewhere, academics, politicians and the media have contemplated the possibility it leaked from a high-level biochemical lab in Wuhan - raising suspicions that Chinese officials simply hid evidence of the early spread

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While China has insisted the virus originated elsewhere, academics, politicians, and the media have contemplated the possibility it leaked from a high-level biochemical lab in Wuhan – raising suspicions that Chinese officials simply hid evidence of the early spread

The question of whether the global outbreak began with a spillover from wildlife sold at the market or leaked out of the Wuhan lab just eight miles across the Yangtze River has given rise to fierce debate about how to prevent the next pandemic. Studies point to a natural spillover at the Huanan wildlife market. Positive swab samples of floors, cages and counters also track the virus back to stalls in the southwestern corner of the market (bottom left), where animals with the potential to harbour Covid were sold for meat or fur at the time (bottom right)

+4

View gallery

The question of whether the global outbreak began with a spillover from wildlife sold at the market or leaked out of the Wuhan lab just eight miles across the Yangtze River has given rise to fierce debate about how to prevent the next pandemic. Studies point to a natural spillover at the Huanan wildlife market. Positive swab samples of floors, cages, and counters also track the virus back to stalls in the southwestern corner of the market (bottom left), where animals with the potential to harbour Covid were sold for meat or fur at the time (bottom right)

Experts slam Boston lab where scientists have created a new deadly Omicron strain with an 80% kill rate in mice

Boston University scientists were today condemned for ‘playing with fire’ after it emerged they had created a lethal new Covid strain in a laboratory.

DailyMail.com revealed the team had made a hybrid virus — combining Omicron and the original Wuhan strain — that killed 80 per cent of mice in a study.

The researchers were attempting to discover whether the spike protein on the Omicron variant – responsible for making it the most transmissible of Covid strains to date – is also behind the virus having a particularly mild effect on infected hosts, with most suffering only slight illness.

The resultant chimera was only slightly less deadly than the Wuhan strain, indicating that the spike protein is not behind the attenuation of its effects on hosts.

The team behind its creation announced that as well as ‘inflict[ing] severe disease’ it also ‘robustly escapes vaccine-induced humoral immunity’, indicating that the recombinant virus retained the most dangerous properties of its parents.

The revelation exposes how dangerous virus manipulation research continues to go on even in the US, despite fears similar practices may have started the pandemic.

Professor Shmuel Shapira, a leading scientist in the Israeli Government, said: ‘This should be totally forbidden, it’s playing with fire.’

Gain of function research – when viruses are purposefully manipulated to be more infectious or deadly – is thought to be at the center of Covid’s origin.

Professor Francois Balloux, an infectious disease expert based at University College London, said the findings appear ‘solid, both conceptually and methodologically.

He said: ‘The distribution of restriction sites in SARS-CoV-2 is highly atypical when compared to related viruses in circulation, and far more in line with previous lab-engineered coronaviruses. 

‘This is a troubling finding, which requires scrutiny.

‘These findings are not “final and dispositive”, but they can’t be ignored either. 

‘To me, this is by far the strongest piece of evidence to date against a simple scenario of strict zoonotic origin for SARS-CoV-2.’

However, Professor Kristian Andersen, a virologist at research facility Scripps Research in California, said the study is ‘so deeply flawed that it wouldn’t pass kindergarten molecular biology’.

He said: ‘The study is a clear example of motivated reasoning with a heavy dose of technobabble to make it sound legitimate — but it’s nothing more than poppycock dressed up as science. 

‘In plain language — this is uninformed nonsense and it’s simply not worth engaging with.’

Dr. Benjamin Neuman, a virologist at the of Texas A&M University, said the study is ‘very poorly controlled, cherry-picked and making a big deal out of lumps and bumps that are of no significance to the virus’.

He said: ‘It’s about as illuminating an approach as converting the genome to digits, adding up the digits, and comparing that to the “number of the Beast”. 

‘This isn’t really evidence for or against the discredited idea of a lab-origin virus.

‘The study looks for patterns of nucleotides that people have found useful because they can be cleaved by restriction enzymes.

‘Essentially, this study looks at an irrelevant trait that would not be useful to either the virus or a person trying to assemble the virus using modern technology.’

Dr Neuman added: ‘There is no reason a person assembling a genome would need to assemble the sequence in gene-sized chunks that start or end exactly at gene boundaries. It’s tinfoil-hat bonkers.

‘The methodology is nonsense, as are the conclusions. There are thousands of different Coronavirus genomes now, and this study cherry-picks fewer than forty that make its point.’

Since China originally alerted the world to a mysterious virus circulating in Wuhan in December 2019, debate has been raging over its true source. 

China has repeatedly insisted the virus spilled naturally into humans from bats, with most scientists agreeing Covid most likely had natural origins.  

But some say it’s possible the coronavirus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), where researchers were conducting controversial research on the world’s most dangerous pathogens.

The WIV has been carrying out gain-of-function work for years before the Covid outbreak.

China insisted early and often that the virus did not leak from the lab, claiming that crossover to humans must have occurred at a ‘wet market’ in Wuhan that sold live animals.

Perhaps driven by animosity for then-US President Donald Trump, who embraced the lab leak theory early on, mainstream media and academics in the West heaped scorn on the possibility, calling it an unhinged conspiracy theory.

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History & culture of the eastern Caribbean islands

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The Eastern Caribbean is a region that includes a number of small island nations and territories in the Caribbean Sea. These islands have a rich history and culture that have been shaped by a variety of influences, including African, Caribbean, European, and indigenous peoples.

The first inhabitants of the Eastern Caribbean were indigenous peoples who migrated to the region thousands of years ago. These people included the Arawaks, Caribs, and Tainos, who were skilled farmers, fishermen, and craftsmen.

The first European explorers to reach the Eastern Caribbean were the Spanish, who arrived in the region in the late 15th century. The Spanish claimed the islands for their own and began to establish settlements, plantations, and mines. However, they were soon challenged by the English, French, and Dutch, who also wanted to control the region.

The Eastern Caribbean became a battleground for these European powers, who fought over control of the islands for more than two centuries. The islands were eventually divided among the European powers, with the English, French, and Dutch each controlling a number of islands.

During this period, the islands became a melting pot of cultures, with African slaves brought to the region to work on the plantations, and Europeans, Africans, and indigenous peoples mixing and intermingling. This led to the development of a unique culture and identity for the Eastern Caribbean, which is still evident today.

Today, the Eastern Caribbean is a diverse and vibrant region with a rich history and culture. The islands are known for their beautiful beaches, stunning natural scenery, and vibrant music and dance traditions. The region also has a thriving tourism industry, with many visitors coming to the islands to experience the unique culture and beauty of the Eastern Caribbean.

In addition to its rich history and culture, the Eastern Caribbean is also known for its natural beauty. The islands are home to a variety of landscapes, including white sandy beaches, lush rainforests, and mountains. The region is also home to a number of protected areas and national parks, which are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including many species that are found nowhere else in the world.

The Eastern Caribbean is also an important economic region, with many of the islands relying on tourism as a major source of income. The region is also known for its production of spices, particularly nutmeg, which is one of the main exports of the region. In addition, the islands are home to a number of small-scale industries, including fishing, agriculture, and manufacturing.

The Eastern Caribbean is also a popular destination for sailors, with many of the islands offering excellent sailing conditions and a number of marinas and yacht clubs. The region is also home to a number of major sailing events, including the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers and the Caribbean 600 race.

Overall, the Eastern Caribbean is a fascinating and diverse region with a rich history, culture, and natural beauty. The islands offer a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy, from relaxing on beautiful beaches to exploring the region’s vibrant culture and history.

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Singapore – UK businesses agreement opens new fintech market

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  • The UK and Singapore agree a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the UK-Singapore FinTech Bridge to remove barriers to fintech trade and boost cooperation
  • This will deepen engagement between businesses, and regulators, adding to previous co-operation
  • Policymakers from both the UK and Singapore will meet regularly with the fintech sector to work to remove regulatory barriers to trade

LONDON, England – The UK and Singapore have agreed to a new MoU boosting fintech trade and cooperation at their 7th Financial Dialogue in Singapore today, 25 November.

The Fintech Bridge builds on an agreement signed in 2016 – which will remove barriers to fintech trade by opening new regular talks between regulators and businesses, in addition to previous areas of cooperation

This will increase the cooperation and sharing of information on emerging trends in the fintech sector. It will also break down barriers to trade for UK and Singaporean fintechs, boosting growth and investment opportunities.

Andrew Griffith MP, economic secretary to the treasury, said:

“The UK and Singapore are among the world’s leading jurisdictions for fintech investment – and today’s announcement will only accelerate growth and innovation in our respective sectors. The MoU we’ve announced today is crucial – and I would like to thank the Monetary Authority of Singapore for their constructive engagement throughout discussions.”

Chief Executive Officer, (CEO) of Innovate Finance, Janine Hirt said:

“Innovate Finance welcomes this announcement. An MoU between UK and Singapore will deliver a strengthened framework for vital regulatory and policy discussions between the two countries, enable innovation across financial services, and ensure businesses based in both the UK and Singapore have the ongoing support for their ambitions for growth to be realised.

“We look forward to supporting future financial dialogues and business-to-business activity between these markets. We are also delighted to be working with the key organisations engaged to promote the opportunities this FinTech bridge has to offer, and to welcoming FinTech businesses to IFGS and UK FinTech Week next year.”

Miles Celic, chief executive officer, TheCityUK, said:

“The UK and Singapore are two of the world’s most dynamic and innovative FinTech markets. The FinTech Bridge will drive exciting new opportunities and greater alignment of regulatory approaches will help with the expansion of FinTechs from the UK and Singapore into each other’s markets. Greater cooperation between government, regulators and industry will boost innovation and drive better outcomes for customers.”

This MoU will also further deepen the engagement and opportunities between two of the premier international financial and related professional services centres.

The existing Regulatory Cooperation Agreement signed in 2016 has enabled the UK and Singaporean fintech sectors to closely align at a regulatory level. Today’s commitment goes further in a number of areas, making clear the business support available to firms, highlighting opportunities in each other’s markets and creating a clear link between challenges firms face and policy discussions.

The MoU will come into effect next week once formalities have been completed on both sides.

Source: HM Treasury



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UK sets out five-point economic action plan for the G20

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Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Rishi Sunak

LONDON, England – UK prime minister Rishi Sunak will call for coordinated global action to address international economic instability and the rising cost of living when he attends the G20 Summit this week. The meeting in Indonesia comes as countries around the world face huge economic difficulties, caused or exacerbated by the illegal invasion of Ukraine, the prime minister’s office noted Monday.

“Every household on the planet is feeling the impact of Putin’s war. Global food prices have been driven up by his attempts to choke off the Ukrainian grain supply, energy bills have skyrocketed thanks to Russia turning off their gas taps and the World Bank predicts the economic aftershocks will ripple around the world for years to come.”

This week’s meeting will be the first time a UK prime minister has met a representative of the Russian regime since Putin’s full-scale invasion in February. Russian foreign minister Lavrov is expected to attend the talks instead of Putin. The prime minister will use the G20 as an opportunity to call out Putin’s barbarism and force Russia to confront the global suffering caused by this senseless campaign of violence.

“The best and quickest way to alleviate these problems is for Putin to withdraw from Ukraine. But while this war continues, the world’s most powerful economies have a crucial role to play in addressing the desperate global economic situation,” said 10 Downing Street.

G20 leaders first met during the global financial crisis in 2008, in recognition of the fact that our complex and international economic system cannot function without coordinated action from the most powerful economies. This year, the world is looking to the G20 again to ensure the stability of international markets and alleviate the burden on the world’s poorest people.

Ahead of this week’s summit prime minister Sunak has set out a five-point economic action plan for leaders to address the current global instability, covering changes to the global energy market, international food supply and the world financial system.

This action will ensure a firm platform for the domestic measures the Chancellor will set out in this week’s Autumn statement.

The prime minister said:

“Later this week the Autumn Statement will set out how we will get this country on the right path, put public finances on a stable footing and get debt falling. Creating a stable international system that protects the most vulnerable will be a core part of that work.

“But addressing the biggest economic crisis in a decade will require a concerted effort by the world’s largest economies – these are not problems we can solve alone. At the G20, leaders need to step up to fix the weaknesses in the international economic system which Putin has exploited for years.”

Under the five-point economic action plan, prime minister Sunak will call on fellow leaders to:

  • Direct government support to where it’s most needed. Using government support effectively to prioritise the most vulnerable, both in our own countries and internationally.
  • End the weaponisation of food production and distribution. Taking immediate action to support the global food trade to reduce the cost of living for all and save the lives of those at risk of starvation. This includes calling for the Black Sea Grain Initiative to be renewed on 19 November and a G20-wide commitment never to weaponise food production and distribution.
  • Strengthen our energy security and reduce energy dependence on Russia. We must bring an end Russia’s stranglehold over international energy prices. As part of these efforts we will work with partners to unlock the investment needed to accelerate the green transition – the best way of protecting ourselves from those who have perpetually used hydrocarbons to bully and coerce.
  • Open up global trade. This includes by advancing bilateral free trade agreements and through reform of the World Trade Organization. We need a WTO fit to release the opportunities of the 21st century while tackling the manipulation of global markets by malign actors.
  • Providing honest, reliable finance to help developing countries grow sustainably. Ensuring that the international financial system has the firepower needed to help developing countries grow without becoming dependent on their lenders. This includes rapid action to help poor countries better manage their debt burdens and providing an alternative to developing countries borrowing from exploitative sources.

“These efforts form part of the prime minister’s drive to place economic stability and confidence at the heart of this government’s agenda. That means, being a constructive and reliable member to the global economy, and using our influence to create a stronger international economic system,” said the prime minister’s office, 10 Downing Street.



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