Index for October 2014

Volume , Issue

  • ECA Watch launches Map on popular alternatives

    Brussels, 29 October 2014 
    Global NGO network launches a Map that shows popular alternative proposals for infrastructure to encourage public finance institutions to invest in better projects ECA Watch, a network of non-governmental organizations campaigning for reform of public finance institutions (e.g. Export Credit Agencies) and better implementation of social, environmental and human rights standards launched today a “Map on popular alternative proposals of envisioning infrastructure”.
    Linde Zuidema, coordinator of ECA Watch at NGO FERN, says: “The Map can serve as a mean to inform people and support networks on sustainable infrastructure”. The map initially shows cases in Africa, Latin America and Europe. In the future the map will be complemented with more cases throughout the globe.
    According to Mónica Vargas, one of the initiators of the project at the Observatory on Debt in Globalisation (ODG), member of ECA Watch: “Infrastructures should be planned paying attention to issues such as: Who decides? Who benefits? The cases selected for the Map show that there are alternative proposals, exemplary because of their ability to respect the needs of all stakeholders instead of just fulfilling capital interests in the North and the South. The main objective of the map is to spread information, proposals and contribute to linking people and groups with each other, in order to enrich the narrative on alternative infrastructure”.
    ECA Watch developed the map initially to show cases in the energy, water and transport sector. An example in the energy sector is the National Energy Proposal of the Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens (Movement of People affected by Dams in Brazil), which includes a Platform that responds to the impacts of large hydroelectric dams in Brazil, integrating people affected by dams (farmers, fishers, indigenous peoples) as well as workers in the energy sector. Its aim is to build another energy model, that plans and organises popular control over the production and distribution of energy, as well as over the wealth it generates. The idea is also to allocate resources and energy generation to people's real needs, as well as to ensure the protection of the environment. 
    Another example, in the water sector is the Italian Water Referendum of 2011 and its results: the intention to prevent water privatization and to consider water as a common good. The initiative proposes management of water systems at the municipal level and avoid any interference by free market principles.
    You can enter the map here
    Contacts for press:
    Mónica Vargas , Observatory on Debt in Globalisation (ODG),, +34 66 202 64 97
    Linde Zuidema, Eca Watch Coordinator,, +32 2 894 4694

Volume 13, Issue 10

  • (Both ENDS, Amsterdam, 23 October 2014) On 18 October it was reported that the Egyptian authorities signed a contract with an international consortium of dredging companies to expand the Suez canal. The consortium includes the two main Dutch dredging companies: Royal Boskalis Westminster and Van Oord, as well as the Jan de Nul Group from Belgium and the National Marine Dredging Company (NMDC) of Abu Dhabi. The total contract values an amount of US$ 1.5 billion. ECA-cover by Atradius DSB is foreseen as part of the deal. The CEO of Boskalis – Mr. Berdowski – expressed confidence that this should not be a problem. There are serious concerns for questioning whether this project should be eligible for export credit cover from Atradius DSB. The UK's Guardian reported in September that thousands of people have already been evicted for this project without compensation, while a total of 5.000 houses would be under threat of eviction. Evicted villagers have simply been told that they had no right to live in the area, and some persons who protested the army making this claim have already been arrested. Also, major concerns have already been raised on environmental impacts such as groundwater problems due to the absence of necessary research that should precede implementation.

    Read the full Both Ends statement here.

  • (ECA Watch, Brussels, 29 October 2014) ECA Watch has written OECD ECA's, Finance Ministers and OECD Secretary General Angel Gurría regarding upcoming discussions around coal financing through export credit agencies. We understand that they may be considering proposals to perpetuate coal financing and even to extend preferential terms for certain coal plant technologies. We urge them to reject this proposal, which would pervert the internationally identified goal of curbing support for coal, including export credit agency support. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), if planetary warming is to be kept under 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels (the level deemed “dangerous” by world leaders), the majority of proven fossil fuel reserves will have to be left in the ground. The IPCC has also found that, in order to limit temperature rise to 2°, annual investments in conventional fossil fuel power plants over the next two decades (2010 to 2029) have to decline by an average US$ 30 billion, and annual investments in extraction of fossil fuels have to decline by an average US$ 110 billion. Our letter follows on concerns expressed in May and June 2014

    Read our letter here

  • (Reuters, Tokyo, 23 October 2014) The United States has challenged the Japanese government over moves to ramp up exports of coal-fired power technology and to offer cheap loans to lure buyers, according to a U.S. source with direct knowledge of the matter. Japan's shipments of the equipment soared to nearly $8 billion last year as it looks to boost infrastructure exports, defying U.S. calls for developed nations to stop investment in foreign coal projects to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

  • (Reuters, Berlin, 23 October 2014) Big exporting nations are breaking their pledge to fight corruption in global trade, with more than half of the countries that have signed an OECD anti-bribery convention failing to implement it, a report by Transparency International (TI) showed on Thursday. The Berlin-based anti-corruption watchdog named Japan, the Netherlands, Greece, Russia and Brazil as among the worst offenders. [The latest OECD Export Credit Working Group review of member responses to the 2006 survey on ECA measures taken to combat bribery, and individual ECA survey responses, can be found by patient and diligent researchers on the OECD web site, but show previously identified weaknesses in the monitoring of compliance. For example, one OECD member ECA only requires their underwriters to exercise enhanced due diligence if a corporate applicant has admitted to being debarred by the World Bank, the IMF or other IFIs, would allow support if a convicted briber has implemented improved management systems to detect bribery, and only sometimes will invalidate support to a company that is proven to have been involved in bribery.]

  • (ECA Watch, Barcelona & Brussels, 29 October 2014) ECA Watch in collaboration with ODG of Spain have produced a map of popular alternative proposals with respect to mega infrastructure projects, which are too often responsible for the privatization of common goods and resources. These popular alternatives have been developed in order to fulfil real needs, instead of the contrived needs that serve capital interests in the North and the South. The map shows cases in the energy, water and transpost sectors and, while not pretending to be exhaustive, will help spread information and proposals to link people and groups to enrich the narrative on alternative infrastructure projects.

    Check out the map here.

  • (Devex, Washington, 6 October 2014) Congress has voted to reauthorize Ex-Im, the government agency that finances U.S. exports of goods and services — but only through June 30, 2015. The measure passed after it was tucked into a much larger spending bill that also funded the Obama administration’s Ebola response. In a debate largely fought along ideological lines, tea party Republicans argued that Ex-Im has a history of financing politically favored companies. Advocates for Ex-Im, including the Obama administration, insisted that in the face of stiff global competition, the bank’s support is needed to sustain American businesses and jobs. Drawing far less scrutiny and attention in Washington, however, is the reality that Ex-Im is also emerging as a key player in Power Africa, U.S. President Barack Obama’s initiative to double access to energy across sub-Saharan Africa by 2018. In fact, of Obama’s $7 billion, five-year pledge to Power Africa announced last year, up to $5 billion in financing is slated to come from the bank.

  • (Fibre2Fashion News, Ahmedabad, 2 October 2014) The United States and Brazil have agreed to settle their long-standing cotton dispute over U.S. agricultural export subsidies under the US Farm Bill and the USDA GSM-102 programme. As per the agreement, Brazil will relinquish all rights to countermeasures against US trade. In turn, the US will make a one-time final contribution of US$ 300 million to the Brazil Cotton Institute, or IBA. Both countries also agreed to formally terminate the cotton case at the WTO Dispute Settlement Body within 21 days. "€œBrazil has also agreed not to bring new WTO actions against US cotton support programs while the current US Farm Bill is in force or against agricultural export credit guarantees under the GSM-102 program as long as the program is operated consistent with the agreed terms,"€ the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said in a statement. [The United States currently pays around $20 billion per year to farmers in direct subsidies as "farm income stabilization" via U.S. farm bills and US$3.1 billion via the USDA GSM-102 programme.]

    [Note: Article 23 of the OECD managed Arrangement on Official Export Credits states that "The Participants shall charge premium, in addition to interest charges, to cover the risk of non-repayment of export credits. The premium rates charged by the Participants shall be risk-based, shall converge and shall not be inadequate to cover long-term operating costs and losses." In 2005 a UK government study determined that their export credits received some £150 million or US$271 million per year in subsidies. Article I(j) of the WTO Agreement on Subsidies, which the Arrangement was intended to enforce on ECAs, has similar wording on subsidies.]

  • (Energy Business Review, London, 6 October 2014) The Russian government has approved $10bn credit to Belarus for the construction of a nuclear power plant (NPP) in Belarus... "The Russian side will provide the Belorussian side a state export credit of up to $10 billion to finance the cost of every contract ... on supply of goods, works done and services delivered ... by a Russian organization responsible for the construction of two energetic blocks [nuclear reactors] in Belarus." The project was initiated by Belarus in the 1980s, but was put on hold following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 in Ukraine. Additionally, concerns over the project were also raised by Belarusian opposition and environmental activists. These concerns became widespread following the March 2011 disaster at Fukushima nuclear power station in Japan. The new nuclear power plant will also feature advanced technology to ensure accident-free operations.

  • (Korea Times, Seoul, 29 September 2014) The Export-Import Bank of Korea said Sunday that it would take the lead in promoting joint economic projects in the Northeast Asian region... On Sept. 18, export-import banks from Korea, China, Russia and Mongolia signed an agreement in Yanbian, China, to launch the Northeast Asia EXIM Banks Association for financial cooperation in the region's joint development projects, Korea Eximbank said in a statement... "Through the multilateral agreement, we expect the countries to explore opportunities for joint development projects and the banks to join hands to financially support the projects in Northeast Asia," Eximbank Chairman and President Lee Duk-hoon said in the statement.

  • (The Economic Voice, Southampton, 24 October 2014) The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) on Monday approved two authorizations totaling $1 billion in financing to support the export of U.S. goods and services to Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), Mexico's national oil-and-gas company. Pemex will issue Ex-Im Bank-guaranteed bonds in capital markets to fund the purchases of these exports. [This development is taking place under Mexico's recent liberalization the petroleum sector which allows private sector participation after decades of state monopoly.]