Dr. Martens

Iconic Shoe Brand Dr. Martens Intends To Join The Stock Market

Whilst it is very common to want to go out and buy the latest fashions from the newest ‘It’ brand or have the most advanced gadgets, there are still many brands that have been around for tens, or even hundreds, of years that continue to stand the test of time. Brands such as Hermes that was founded in 1837 and Louis Vuitton in 1854, have cultivated a reputation for luxury goods, a fundamental part of their brand identity, that has helped them to maintain their popularity over the years. Other brands have created an iconic style that has established them as a go-to brand for that signature look. One such brand is Dr. Martens, whose classic boots are instantly recognizable across the world.

It was recently reported that this infamous footwear brand is planning to join the stock market, which would mean a proportion of the shares in the business would be available for investors to purchase. In this case, there will be no sale of new shares in the IPO and at least 25 per cent of the company will be floated. This “London float would be one of the first big initial public offerings of the year” according to the Financial Times. Sky News reported that Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have been appointed to head up the flotation and the value being sought has not been disclosed.

The footwear brand continues to bring in around £672m of annual sales, including 11 million pairs of shoes that are purchased in over 60 countries, as reported by the BBC. The Coronavirus pandemic has certainly been tough on retail outlets in particular, with many finding their physical stores have had to close for considerable parts of 2020. In the UK, the reintroduction of lockdown restrictions was announced on Monday 4th January 2021 and this meant that again non-essential retail stores would need to close their doors.

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“Dr Martens’ most recent figures show rising sales, despite Covid-related restrictions on its stores, as it shifts more sales direct to consumers.” said the BBC, adding “The company runs 130 stores around the world, but its push to online sales mean these now account for about a fifth of its revenues.” Even with the challenges of the pandemic, group revenues increased 18% on the previous year for the six month period up to September 2020.

Other brands that have reported increases in sales include Amazon, who reported a 37% increase in earnings at the end of October 2020, and ASOS, where group sales increased by 23% from the previous year in the final four months of 2020. ASOS are also planning to open a new UK warehouse that will create 2,000 jobs. Although this is not the same across the retail landscape as many other businesses continue to struggle.

Perhaps the most recognisable Dr Martens shoe is the smooth leather boot with eight lace holes, a design which has certainly stood the test of time. The eight lace boot is called the 1460, after the date 1st April 1960 which was when the first Dr. Martens boot in the UK was sold. Tell tale signs of Dr Marten books include the air-cushioned sole and “air wair” tag on the back of the shoe. Not only available in black, you can now purchase many of their shoes in brighter hues, such as yellow, orange and peppermint green. In addition to these lace up boots, customers can also buy chelsea boots, ankle boots, loafers and sandals. A number of styles are also now available vegan, or not made from animal leather. Styles are available for women, men and children and you can also purchase a range of accessories.

The history of the Dr. Martens brand is iconic. One of the most important aspects of the shoe is the air-cushioned sole, and this was the design of Dr Maertens and Dr Funk from Munich to help the recovery of Dr Maerten’s broken foot. They then sold the patent rights in the UK to the R Griggs Group, who had a reputation in Northamptonshire for making quality work boots since the turn of the 20th Century.

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Initially the signature footwear were marketed as work boots, but in the 1960s they were adopted by the skinhead youth movement. This heightened their popularity among young people. Other movements throughout history have also adopted the boots within their signature style, including 1970s punks and 1990s britpop fans. Although there was a time close to the millennium where the company found itself in financial difficulty. In 2013, for £300 million, the brand was taken over by Permira, a private equity group, who currently own about 75 per cent of the iconic bootmaker, prior to the flotation.

As commented on InStyle as part of the 2020 New York Fashion Week, it is now quite common to see Dr Martens boots on the runway. In addition, Style Report Magazine called them “2020’s hottest boot trend”, which cements their position as a signature shoe brand.

Looking to the future, the Chief Executive of Dr Martens Kenny Wilson highlighted that there have been many achievements over the past seven years and the large investments that have been put into the company to create “long term, sustainable growth”.

It will certainly be interesting to see when Dr Martens’ flotation takes place and how this will be received.

New York Stock Exchange

NYSE Delists Three Chinese Firms in Confusing Reversal

The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) has said that it will indeed delist three Chinese telecommunication companies after changing their stance on the matter twice previously. The decision comes just a day after US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told the NYSE chief that he disagreed with the earlier decision to reverse the removal of the three firms.

The latest about-turn marks the third time in less than a week that the NYSE’s Big Board has made a decision on the matter. The move will come into effect on January 11 unless altered again and the flip-flopping highlights confusion in the economic world over which firms were included in the executive order issued by President Trump late last year that barred US persons from investing in publicly traded companies that Washington deems to be tied to the Chinese military.

As the Trump administration reaches its final days, tensions are escalating within Washington on China policy and the latest fiasco involving the NYSE will not calm things.

“There is a unique situation where there is an outgoing administration that is disengaged and (there are) orders sitting out there, so something has to be done, but no one wants to take on responsibility,” said Leland Miller, the CEO of the U.S.-based consultancy China Beige Book. “I think in future that anyone getting these orders will say: ‘Tell us exactly what you want us to do,’ and force administrations to be more focused.”

The NYSE originally announced plans last Thursday to delist China Mobile Ltd, China Telecom Corp Ltd and China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd. due to their breaching of new rules. Monday saw exchange officials perform a U-turn after consultation with regulators in connection with the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control which led them to decide to keep them listed. An announcement Wednesday then marked the return to the original plan of delisting the firms.

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After the initial U-turn, the NYSE and the Treasury came under fire from critics who claimed that they were being dovish on China. For a while Mnuchin has been regarded by many as seeking to thwart attempts from ‘hardliners’ in the Trump administration to crack down on Chinese companies operating on the exchange.

“The confusion in markets reflects the internal turf battles within the administration over this issue,” said Michael Hirson of the Eurasia Group consultancy.

“The executive order was pushed through by China hardliners without input from Treasury, which had fought such a move as disruptive to markets and the US financial sector,” Hirson said.

The confusion has caused investors to sell positions in the securities, the prices of which fell on the initial announcement, rose again when they were relisted and then tumbled on Wednesday after the delisting was confirmed.

However, the final decision has satisfied Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who had previously speculated that the NYSE’s initial reversal was due to the Treasury.

“After an intense pressure campaign from those of us who believe we should prioritize the interests of American workers and mom and pop investors above Beijing and Wall Street, I am pleased that the NYSE decided to reverse their earlier announcement,” he said in a statement.

“If it is true that someone at (Treasury) advised (NYSE) to reverse the decision to delist these Chinese companies, it was a outrageous effort to undermine (President Trump’s) Executive Order,” Rubio tweeted before the second change of mind was announced.

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Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing this week that they believed a number of political forces in the United States were deciding to persist with an unreasonable suppression of US-listed foreign firms, which she said highlighted the arbitrary nature of its policies.

“We hope the U.S. respects the legal system and the market,” she said.

Republican Senator Ben Sasse, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the decision was the “right call”.

“Chinese firms that reject fundamental transparency requirements and have ties to the Chinese military shouldn’t benefit from American investment,” Sasse said.

US stocks rose this week with the S&P 500 and the Dow reaching record highs as potential investors got behind financial and industrial stocks in numbers as they bet on a Democratic sweep in Georgia paving the way for more fiscal stimulus and infrastructure spending.

Financials were able to hit a 1-year high, while materials, industrial and energy sectors jumped between 2.5% and 3.4%. Rate-sensitive bank shares jumped about 5%, tracking a surge in the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury yield.

“The market is saying we can deal and live with this political decision,” said John Stoltzfus, chief investment strategist at Oppenheimer Asset Management in New York.

“It is saying if you have the potential to lose the tax reform package … the offset to that might be more stimulus to the economy which in effect could be positive for the markets.”

Money

Billionaires Add $1 Trillion To Their Net Worth As Millions Of Their Workers Struggle For Survival 

Throughout the timeline of the pandemic alone, billionaires in the US have collectively increased their net worth by more than $1 trillion. Many of these billionaire’s US workers, on the other hand, have been struggling to deal with unsafe working conditions that leave them susceptible to potential infection, and without hazard pay or any increase in compensation for working in a pandemic, many have been struggling for survival. 

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO and founder, added more than $70 billion to his new worth during the coronavirus pandemic, bringing his total net worth up to $185 billion. Workers at Amazon and Amazon-owned grocery chain Whole Foods have spent a majority of the pandemic protesting against the unsafe working conditions they’re being forced to work in, and the endless pressures from management to keep up with the overwhelming demand. 

Several workers who have participated or led protests at Amazon over working conditions specifically have alleged that they were fired as a result of their efforts to receive basic level safety. Profits and stockholder shares for the company have increased by billions of dollars throughout 2020, however, Amazon only provided a small fraction of those extra earnings in hazard pay and bonuses for workers on the frontline actually risking their lives everyday to further fill Bezos’ pockets. 

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In fact, Amazon ended all hazard pay back in June 2020, and instead has provided workers with sporadic one-time bonuses. On average workers have seen about a 99 cent increase in their paycheck during the pandemic, for comparison, Bezos earns about $11.7 million every single hour. 

“It’s infuriating that we live in fear every day because of minimal efforts to protect us, while executives take in tons of money while sitting safely at home.”

An anonymous employee working for Amazon recently spoke with the media about the conditions, and chose to keep their identity a secret out of fear that they would be left unemployed and with no source of income. “What they considered hazard pay was just for show. We couldn’t see a difference unless we were willing to work almost 60 hours a week. Several of us had no choice because we’re the breadwinners of our family.”

Jessica Oneto was a Whole Foods employee in California who quit in October 2020 partially due to the working conditions management was forcing upon its employees throughout the pandemic. 

“They gave us hazard pay for maybe a couple months. It was only $2 and they literally took it away as the pandemic got worse. One of the biggest companies couldn’t afford to keep it up?”

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Elon Musk, owner of Tesla Motors, earned an additional $140 billion throughout the pandemic, making him the wealthiest person in the world with a total net worth of $195 billion. Workers for Tesla have been subject to multiple factory Covid outbreaks, and unsafe conditions brought on by Musk himself, who defied local shutdown orders by reopening his plants and resuming factory production. 

Musk even went as far as to threaten his employees if they didn’t also defy the state lockdown orders by sending out an email that implied they would lose unemployment benefits if they didn’t show up to work and risk infection. At least two workers were fired for not showing up due to the fact that they were immunocompromised and worried about getting sick. 

“While people in cubicles stay home to work, we can’t do that and we don’t get any hazard pay/ Nothing has changed. Musk can afford to do so much more and he doesn’t. I find it sickening to see how much Elon Musk’s wealth has grown while we take all the risks. All we get is a ‘thank you so much’ email,” said a Tesla employee at the Fremont plant who also asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. 

Another Fremont employee cited ongoing mistreatment toward Black workers at Tesla specifically: “Musk has not once addressed this issue in his workplace or supported Black Lives Matter. No hazard pay or bonus. They gave all regular workers their regular raise, but being that I’m maxed out at my position I didn’t get anything.”

As the old saying goes the rich get richer while the poor get poorer, and this global health crisis has truly exemplified that. The only positive that workers have seen come out of these obscene billionaire wealth increases is how much more it’s being discussed now. The power of social media has created a large conversation over how America specifically runs, and why it allows this handful of white men to hoard so much wealth while millions of Americans are on the brink of complete homelessness.

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Capitol Building

Business Leaders Call For Trump To Be Removed From Office

A plethora of American business leaders, including one of the most influential business groups in the country, the National Association of Manufacturers, have condemned the recent attack on the Capitol and called on Vice President Mike Pence to consider removing Donald Trump from office.

The statement released by the Republican-leaning National Association of Manufacturers is very strong in tone and represents possibly the strongest political statement by a major business group in modern US history. It also highlights how the relationship between the self-styled CEO president and the business community has broken down in recent times.

“This is sedition and should be treated as such. The outgoing president incited violence in an attempt to retain power, and any elected leader defending him is violating their oath to the Constitution and rejecting democracy in favor of anarchy,” National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons said in a statement.

“Anyone indulging conspiracy theories to raise campaign dollars is complicit. Vice President Pence, who was evacuated from the Capitol, should seriously consider working with the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to preserve democracy.

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“This is not the vision of America that manufacturers believe in and work so hard to defend. Across America today, millions of manufacturing workers are helping our nation fight the deadly pandemic that has already taken hundreds of thousands of lives. We are trying to rebuild an economy and save and rebuild lives. But none of that will matter if our leaders refuse to fend off this attack on America and our democracy—because our very system of government, which underpins our very way of life, will crumble.”

Timmons’ comments demonstrate just how Corporate America feels over Trump’s ongoing attempts to bring down democracy in the US. The National Association of Manufacturers, founded in 1895, is one of the oldest business groups in the nation and with small and large manufacturers from every US state represented, it is also one of the most powerful. The comments come after Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol, attempting to stop the joint session of Congress in which Electoral College votes were being counted.

“This is not who we are as a people or a country. We are better than this,” JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, one of America’s top business leaders, said in a statement condemning the Washington violence. “Our elected leaders have a responsibility to call for an end to the violence, accept the results, and, as our democracy has for hundreds of years, support the peaceful transition of power. Now is the time to come together to strengthen our exceptional union.”

The call for Trump’s head by the National Association of Manufacturers is particularly noteworthy because of the advocacy group’s staunch pro-business stance, as well as their previous vocal support for President Trump. The group has consistently championed the Trump administration’s tax cuts, deregulations and efforts to revive manufacturing, even having him deliver remarks at their annual Washington meeting in 2017.

“For years, our democracy has built a reservoir of goodwill around the world that brings important benefits for our citizens. Recently, we have squandered that goodwill at an alarming pace, and today’s attack on the U.S. Capitol does further damage. It’s time for all Americans to come together and move forward with a peaceful transition of power. We have to begin reinvesting in our democracy and rebuilding the institutions that have made America an exceptional nation,” David M. Solomon, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs said.

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A year later, Republican Congressman Kevin Brady, back then chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, claimed that the Trump administration’s tax cuts would not have been possible without the support of the National Association of Manufacturers and Timmons, who has been CEO of the group since 2011.

According to OpenSecrets, the National Association of Manufacturers contributed over $160,000 to Republican Congressional candidates during the 2020 election cycle, a figure that marks 72% of the group’s contributions.

Alfred Kelly, Jr., Chairman and CEO of Visa: “I am shocked and saddened by what I’ve seen today. We at Visa stand 100% behind the results of the election and the collective voices of the citizens of this country. We are fully supportive of a smooth transition of power which has been the case for almost two and a half centuries. In this time of intense anxiety for our country and the world, I continue to have tremendous faith in the resilience of our United States institutions.”

Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America said, “Today’s appalling events in our nation’s capital underscore the urgent need for all American’s to unite behind one of our most cherished principles: the peaceful transfer of power that has happened without interruption since our country’s founding. We must move forward together peacefully, respectfully and with a singular, shared focus on our American ideals.”

UK Stock Exchange

FTSE 100 Hits Nine-Month High as AstraZeneca Vaccine Approved in UK

London’s FTSE 100 inched higher on Wednesday as it reached a nine-month high following news of the AstraZeneca vaccine being approved by UK regulators. The FTSE 100 index is now up 160 points, or nearly 2.5%, at 6662 points, which is its highest point since early March, when Pfizer announced news of its vaccine.

Financial stocks, in particular large banks such as HSBC Holdings, Barclays and Lloyds Banking Group, were the biggest winners in the market increase. Drug manufacturer AstraZeneca, who partnered with Oxford University to produce its Covid-19 vaccine, was up nearly 5% after it announced it would be working with the UK government to begin vaccinations early in 2021.

“The AstraZeneca approval will be a game changer for the vaccination process as it is available immediately in quantity and is easily transported and stored,” said Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst at OANDA.

“The announcement should be a strong positive factor for UK equities and the pound.”

The regulatory approval comes at a much-needed time for AstraZeneca and the Oxford team responsible for production of the vaccine, as they have recently come under pressure for a perceived lack of clarity about the results from late-stage trials.

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The FTSE improvement also comes at a good time for the UK as it struggles to contain the coronavirus pandemic, with the country recording one of the world’s highest death tolls of around 65,000 by mid-December, despite its relatively small population size. The emergence of a more infectious Covid-19 variant has made things worse in the country, and even spread to other parts of Europe.

The mid-cap FTSE 250 index, often regarded as a barometer of Brexit sentiment, also rose as British lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in favor of the trade deal struck by the UK and European Union last week.

“Gains in equities are likely be capped until we see how the mechanics of Brexit unfold next week,” Jeffrey Halley said.

Russ Mould of stockbrokers AJ Bell says the global pandemic will remain a key influence for some time to come, as it is either “beaten back or proves frustratingly persistent”.

“A double-dip recession, thanks to new viral strains and perhaps more stringent lockdowns, could put equity investors on the back foot – even if the FTSE 100 is down by a sixth from its August 2018 and January 2020 highs, the index is up by 30% from its March 2020 nadir of 4,994, so some degree of recovery is already expected,” he said.

Paul Craig, a portfolio manager at Quilter Investors, an investment manager, told the Guardian that the remarkably rapid development of a vaccine candidate less than a year after the first cases were discovered was “hugely positive news” but warned that it was “not a silver bullet”.

He said: “Many of the issues facing developed economies now are structural and a vaccine is not going to prevent the large-scale unemployment we are likely to see as a result of the lockdowns of earlier this year. For now, however, it is a positive and the companies benefiting certainly represent a reopening trade of some sorts.”

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While the majority of reaction has been praise for Oxford University and AstraZeneca in gaining UK approval for its vaccine that many say will be vital to the global prospects of ending the pandemic because of its low cost and ease of transportation, some experts have cast warnings about the new proposed mode of application.

More people will now be given the initial dose and the time between injections has been increased to 12 weeks. Some experts have argued that while it was pragmatic to ensure as many people as possible receive the initial shot, there still remained unanswered questions, for example the increased time between shots could result in some people not returning to receive it.

Pfizer-BioNTech have also previously categorically stated that their vaccine was not designed to be used in two shots 12 weeks apart, which the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization have now authorized. In a statement, the companies confirmed that there was no evidence that the first shot would continue to work beyond three weeks.

“Everyone will still receive their second dose and this will be within 12 weeks of their first. The second dose completes the course and is important for longer-term protection,” a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, UK health secretary Matt Hancock said: “Because we’ve got enough of this vaccine on order to vaccinate the whole population – we’ve got 100m doses on order – add that to the 30m doses of Pfizer and that’s enough for two doses for the entire population.

“So I can now say with confidence that we can vaccinate everyone, except of course for children because this vaccine has not been trialed on children, and anyway children are much, much less likely to have symptoms from the disease.”

Man Filing for Unemployment

Weekly Jobless Claims Remain Stagnant As Hiring Slows Down In America 

Throughout this past week in America there have been indicators that the labor market is continuing to weaken, and new jobs aren’t being created at a rate they once were. The pandemic obviously has everything to do with this, however, despite the decline in hiring throughout the nation, first-time filings for unemployment remained relatively stagnant in the end of 2020. 

This is surprising because in terms of the pandemic and economy, the US has entered into its worst phase so far; and that began back in November. First-time filings have been on a steady increase throughout the fall, but by the end of last week, weekly claims totaled 787,000. The Labor Department and Dow Jones both estimated that 815,000 filings would’ve been the total based on the trends that existed at the end of the year. 

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The report showed that compared to the week prior the amount of filings decreased by 3,000 for first-time filings, and 126,000 for continued claims. Now, the total amount of individuals receiving continuous claims is around 5.07 million and those receiving benefits from all government assisted programs declined by 420,000 to 19.2 million. 

This week ADP reported that private contracts and workers accounted for 123,000 job losses in December, which is the first time that the sector of the labor market has seen such a substantial decline in employment. Ian Shepherdson, a chief economist, recently spoke with the media about this predictable yet devastating consistency in unemployment. 

“A combination of Covid fear and state-mandated restrictions on activity in the services sector is squeezing businesses, and no real relief is likely until a sustained decline in pressure on hospitals emerges.”

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The Labor Department is currently projected to report that the US economy has added at least 50,000 jobs to the labor force in America at the end of 2020. However, the unemployment rate has continued to increase and is now at 6.8%, according to estimates from Dow Jones. 

While the labor market continues to remain in deep distress the average for continued unemployment claims has oddly decreased; last week it fell down to 818,750, for comparison this time last year the amount of continued claims totaled 219,750. 

Illinois is the state responsible for the biggest drop in claims with a decline of 62,765. Multiple states showed that they gained more than 10,000 claims in the last week; including Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Virginia, and Texas. 

The fourth quarter is expected to show a considerable growth in the amount of new hires that occurred. This is also based on current investment and consumer spending data. The Atlanta Federal Reserve’s GDPNow tracker of activity is predicting a 8.9% gain for “domestic product” and employment.

China & EU Flags

EU Strikes Investment Deal With China

China and the European Union (EU) have agreed upon an investment deal this week that will see European companies given greater access to Chinese markets as Europe seeks to address what it sees as unbalanced economic ties.

The agreement has been in the works for nearly seven years and will most likely take another year to fully come into force. EU officials have said that it forms part of a new relationship with China, which the EU views as a partner and systemic rival simultaneously.

“Following intensive negotiations carried out by the European Commission on the EU’s side, the EU and China concluded in principle the negotiations for a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI). This delivers on the commitment made at the EU-China summit in April 2019 where the two sides agreed to aim for conclusion of negotiations by the end of 2020,” a European commission statement on the deal read.

“Participants welcomed the active role of the German Presidency of the Council, and of Chancellor Angela Merkel in particular, who has put special emphasis on EU-China relations and fully supported the EU negotiation with China.”

“This Agreement is of major economic significance and also binds the parties into a values-based investment relationship grounded in sustainable development principles. Once in effect, the CAI will help rebalance the trade and investment relationship between the EU and China. China has committed to an unprecedented level of market access for EU investors, giving European businesses certainty and predictability for their operations,” it said.

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Through the agreement, European firms will now have permission to operate in China in sectors including advertising, private hospitals, electric cars, real estate, airline reservation systems, the maritime industry, telecom cloud services and ground handling. Requirements that meant companies had to operate as part of joint ventures with Chinese partners will also be lifted.
Companies with a large presence in China that will likely benefit include Allianz, BMW, Daimler, Peugeot and Siemens, according to Reuters.

“The Agreement will also significantly improve the level playing field for EU investors by laying down clear obligations on Chinese state-owned enterprises, prohibiting forced technology transfers and other distortive practices, and enhancing transparency of subsidies. EU companies will henceforth benefit from fairer treatment when competing in the Chinese market,” the commission’s statement continued.

“The Agreement also includes important commitments on environment and climate, including to effectively implement the Paris Agreement, and on labour standards. China has committed to effectively implement ILO Conventions it has ratified, and to work towards the ratification of the ILO fundamental Conventions, including on forced labour.”

The new deal now means Europe will enjoy a similar relationship with China as the United States, which has struck a ‘Phase I’ deal with the Asian economic powerhouse. President-elect Joe Biden’s nomination for national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, tweeted last week that the new administration would welcome early consultations with Europe on China’s economic practices.

As well as opening up China’s markets for European firms, the deal also includes commitments on labor rights and climate change. All commitments are reciprocal, but the EU market was already much easier to access. The EU gave up some of its position on energy but says its offer to China is mainly guaranteeing the continuation of the existing openness.

“On the EU side, further work will now be undertaken in accordance with its legal rules and procedure to sign, ratify and conclude the Agreement. The two sides will aim to conclude negotiations on investment protection within two years of the signature of CAI,” the statement said.

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“Ensuring successful implementation of this Agreement once concluded will require high level and sustained political engagement with China. The Agreement also provides for a robust enforcement and monitoring mechanism. The European Commission will monitor the implementation of the commitments in the Agreement on the EU’s side.”

The deal was finally agreed upon and signed after an online meeting between the heads of EU institutions and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who claimed the agreement showed China’s commitment to and confidence in opening up other economic powers.

It would stimulate the global economy as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic and increase mutual trust, he added.

Meanwhile European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hailed the agreement as an important landmark in the EU’s continuing efforts to improve its relationship with China.

“The EU will take stock of the overall development of EU-China relations, including but not limited to the CAI and its implementation in all its dimensions, during the French Presidency in 2022,” the statement said.

“Looking beyond the CAI negotiations, the EU reiterated its expectation that China will engage in negotiations on industrial subsidies in the WTO. The EU Leaders also emphasized the need to improve market access for EU traders in sectors such as agri-food and digital, and to address overcapacity in traditional sectors such as steel and aluminium as well as in high tech.”

Lufthansa Plane

UK Port Chaos as Lufthansa Airlifts Food

German airline company Lufthansa has come to the UK’s aid by airlifting fresh fruit and vegetables as companies aim to beat the lorry chaos inundating Britain’s seaports.

Food and other vital supplies may be in short supply due to disorder at the UK-French border.

The airline has said that it was carrying 80 tons of food from Frankfurt to Doncaster-Sheffield Airport, northern England, on a Boeing 777 freighter. Nearly 3000 lorries remain stuck in Kent, the south of England, despite attempts being made to re-start cross-Channel access from Dover. The airline also said that it was working with a freight forwarder to supply food from Egypt and elsewhere to supermarkets such as Tesco (TSCDY), Sainsbury’s (JSAIY) and Aldi.

France shut its border with the UK on Sunday for 48 hours in an effort to stop the spread of a highly transmissible new strain of Covid-19, found in the UK. Supermarket chains and other businesses in the UK have struggled to cope with the impact of the closure of the essential freight routes between southern England and France.

“Lufthansa Cargo is currently examining whether additional special cargo flights can be offered during the next days. We are also checking if a regular flight might be possible,” a spokeswoman told the BBC.

“This could be with a freighter, but we are also examining if we could use passenger aircraft for freight flights only,” she added.

Despite France and the United Kingdom agreeing late on Tuesday to reopen ferry ports and the Eurotunnel rail link, at least 3000 trucks remained grounded Wednesday morning due to drivers waiting for negative Covid-19 results, needed in order to travel.

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Doncaster-Sheffield Airport said in January, the “planned increase” in the number of flights of perishable goods had risen from three a week to eight.

The airport will be trying to operate 700 tons in food freight a week, a significant increase from 300 tons a week. However, the airport has stated that this increase was actually down to companies wanting to mitigate the expected Brexit congestion, rather than the current issues at the border in Dover, southern England.

“We have seen a general increase in freight traffic in the period since the pandemic began in March by around 40% year-on-year,” a spokeswoman said.

“We are currently experiencing a large volume of enquiries for flights as a result of border closures and we are handling additional flights, such as today’s, where possible. Naturally, this is already a busy period for the air-freight sector as a result of Christmas and Covid.”

In response to the closure of the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel, some firms have been chartering private aircraft in order to carry out the movement of goods such as food, textiles and livestock.

Leading UK supermarkets, Tesco and Sainsburys, have warned previously this week that they may begin to run out of fresh items such as lettuce, salad leaves, broccoli, cauliflower, and citrus fruits within days, subject to the issues at the port being resolved. This may also result in notable supply chain problems in January if there is an extended period in which distribution is blocked.

Despite France giving the green light for travel from the UK to resume, the International Road Transport Union warned that testing truck drivers will cause significant delays.

“We don’t think testing will work. The backlog can’t be cleared if the tests take 30 minutes per driver,” said Raluca Marian, the union’s general delegate to the EU.

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“I hope HGVs [Heavy Goods Vehicles] will be crossing the Channel this morning, and so the position will start to gradually improve, but I think it will take time,” UK Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said. Speaking to Sky News, he said he does not dispute that delays have caused issues for the supply chain but asserted that there is “no material shortage of food.”

Andrew Opie, director of food & sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, warned on Wednesday that some shortages could worsen.

“It is essential that lorries get moving across the border as quickly as possible. Until the backlog is cleared, and supply chains return to normal, we anticipate issues with the availability of some fresh goods,” he said.

The Food and Drink Federation, which represents manufacturers, said it could take until the new year for the problems to be resolved. “That means we are likely to see, locally, reduced on-shelf availability of some fresh vegetables and fruits, beginning next week. We will also see potential significant disruption to the flow of ingredients into the UK,” said Ian Wright, the federation’s chief executive.

Currently Britain imports nearly half of its fresh vegetables and the majority of its fruit, predominantly from the EU.

The UK has previously looked to other sources when fresh produce has been under threat. For example, in 2018, thousands of iceberg lettuce were transported from Los Angeles to the UK due to a heat wave in the summer, increasing the demand for salad. The hot weather also meant that it became difficult to grow lettuce.

Novavax Covid-19 Vaccine Is Beginning Its Phase 3 Trial In The US

Vaccine maker Novavax and federal health researchers in the United States announced this Monday that they will begin a Phase 3 trial for the Novavax Covid-19 vaccine. This marks the fifth vaccine against the coronavirus that has reached this phase in the US. 

“We’ve come this far, this fast, but we need to get to the finish line. That will require multiple vaccines using different approaches to ensure everyone is protected safely and effectively from this deadly disease.”

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, recently released a statement regarding the vaccine, claiming that Novavax plans to enroll around 30,000 individuals across 115 trial sites in the US and Mexico. The vaccine is specifically known as NVX-CoV2373, and it will also be entering a Phase 3 trial in the united Kingdom as well. 

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Much like Pfizer and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine’s, Novavax is a two-dose regime that is designed to boost the body’s immune system and help it recognize the coronavirus should it enter into the body. The vaccine manufactures its own antigens which mimics the virus’ distinct spike protein. The antigen itself can’t “replicate or cause Covid-19,” either. 

Novavax announced the promising data that the initial phases of the trial showed proves that the vaccine is safe and effective, and has so far only produced mild reactions that are typical to other vaccines as well. If the vaccine proves to be effective in the Phase 3 trials, it’ll be much easier to distribute than Pfizer and Moderna’s due to the fact that those vaccines must be kept at ultra-cold freezer temperatures, while the Novavax vaccine can be stored at refrigerated temperatures. 

Johnson&Johnson and AstraZeneca are the other two companies that have vaccines currently in their own Phase 3 trials currently as well. Trials for these companies are also occurring on an international level to ensure full security in terms of the vaccine’s safeness. 

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Novavax should also be one of the companies receiving an infusion of funds from Operation Warp Speed, a program created by the Trump administration to help increase vaccine development. However, now that Pfizer and Moderna have already begun distributing their vaccines to healthcare workers and other vulnerable groups in America, there may be less funding available. 

Dr. Gregory Glenn, the firm’s president of research and development, recently published a news release addressed to Americans who may be hesitant to sign up for the Phase 3 trial for the Novavax vaccine, expressing the importance of the research that they’re doing every day. 

“We recognize that volunteers considering our trial may have questions about the potential impact on their ability to receive an authorized vaccine when it becomes available to them. We wish to reassure participants that we are working to ensure that their involvement in our trial does not negatively impact their ability to be vaccinated at the appropriate time,” he stated, continuing on that volunteers who are worried about receiving the placebo shot in the trial should also understand how important that data is as well. 

The United Kingdom just wrapped up all the enrollments for their Phase 3 trial of the Novavax vaccine, and the US and Mexico should hopefully be following suit in the new year. In the meantime, continue to listen to your healthcare professionals and follow all the necessary protocols still in place to keep us all safe and healthy.