Index for January 2017

Volume 16, Issue 1

  • OECD debates allowing some private sector ECA support to be called development assistance

    (ECA Watch, Ottawa, 31 January 2017) On January 18, 2017, the first day of a 2 day special meeting of a joint OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) and OECD Export Credit Working Group (ECG) task force took place with a number of outside CSO and business representatives, to discuss changes ("modernizations") in the definition of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA), with a view to "liberalize" ODA rules to allow subsidies to private firms to be counted as ODA. This change raises a number of risks, for example it could permit a rise in ODA without any change in expenditures as a portion of the work of Development Finance Institutions (DFIs), and possibly also of Export Credit Agencies (ECAs), which could be counted as ODA.

    The basis of these changes would be in the definition of the "grant element" or "subsidy" in private sector instruments (PSIs) such as loans, guarantees or equity. This involves complex comparisons of PSI rates to market rates, with the difference counting as "grant element". As ECAs increasingly undertake loans as well as guarantees, and DFIs increasingly provide guarantees as well as loans, they find themselves at times financing (and possibly competing for) components of the same projects. Those ECAs which are members of the OECD "Arrangement" are prohibited by the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM) from providing export subsidies, i.e. "grant elements".

    It is against that background that reportedly a number of OECD ECAs are opposed to the current proposals advocated by the OECD-DAC. While ECA's mandate is clearly to support domestic companies doing business abroad, it is quite troubling that officials that are supposed to fight poverty and inequity are widening their mandate to many kinds of private sector support as well, without taking care to examine the consequences. To ensure the ownership of developing countries on how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are to be financed, the OECD should be exploring in quite different directions. The current discussions of ECAs and ODA raises CSO concerns that ODA could be (mis)used as a source of subsidy for donor firms and that it could be directed away from current countries and sectors toward private sector support, middle-income countries and a reduction of actual public money available to developing countries.

  • (Guardian Australia, 16 January 2017) Australia’s export credit agency could end up financing companies that have axed their domestic workforces to manufacture more cheaply overseas, a Senate inquiry has been told. The Export Finance and Insurance Corporation could become instrumental in the “further offshoring of Australian manufacturing” under draft laws proposed by the Coalition that would scrap the requirement to fund only exporters that manufacture “substantially or wholly in Australia”. Jubilee Australia, warned in its published submission that the government’s proposed reforms fell short of what was needed to make a secretive agency accountable in light of its chequered record financing overseas mining projects linked to civil strife and environmental degradation.

  • (Jubilee Australia, Sydney, 17 January 2017) Jubilee Australia has demanded that no expansion of Efic's mandate be allowed unless the institution improves its transparency and due diligence. Jubilee's concerns, summed up in an article in the Guardian today, said that any changes to the Efic Act should include better transparency and accountability with regard to its social and environmental assessment processes and a removal of its exemption from the freedom of information act. The demands were made in a joint submission with the Australia Institute to a Senate Inquiry into proposed reforms to Efic.

  • (Global Trade Review, London, 18 January 2017) France has concluded the transfer of its export credit agency (ECA) from Coface to the Banque Publique d’Investissement (Bpifrance) and rebranded it Bpifrance Assurance Export. Coface’s 240 ECA-focused staff members have been transferred to Bpifrance to ensure continuity. Bpifrance Assurance Export teams will be led by Chritophe Viprey as general manager. The new agency is owned and controlled by the state, with Bpifrance managing all operations and export guarantees. This transition completes Bpifrance’s offering, and will simplify access to ECA products to make them available to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It makes Bpifrance the only portal for all internationalisation-related public aid, including cross-border investment funds, loans for international expansion, export credit, credit, foreign exchange, investment and pre-financing guarantees. Additionally, all Bpifrance financing will now be automatically guaranteed by the state.

    (jDSUPRA Business advisor, Sausalito, 17 January 2017) Coface export guarantees and insurance policies were previously granted on behalf of the French State but in Coface's name with the French State acting as Coface's reinsurer under a service agreement between Coface and the French Ministry of Finance and regulated under the French Insurance Code (Code des assurances). Under the new legislation export credit guarantees and insurance will now be issued directly by the French State through Bpifrance

  • (Financial Tribune, Tehran, 11 January 2017) China has opened a line of credit, worth $1.3 billion, to finance the development of Abadan Oil Refinery, Iran's oldest refinery in the southern Khuzestan Province, the chief executive of National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company said. The funding is part of a $3-billion deal with China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation, known as Sinopec, which has reportedly started operations on renovating the Abadan refinery, Iran's century-old refinery that was heavily damaged during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

  • (Global Trade Review, London, 11 January 2017) Italian export credit agency (ECA) Sace and Intesa Sanpaolo have paired up to offer a €400mn credit line to finance Italian companies working on the Russian Yamal liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, despite continued US and European sanctions against Russia. Intesa will issue the money, as part of two credit lines for the project, while Sace will guarantee the finance, which has been earmarked for Italian subcontractors. The second Intesa credit line is for €350mn and is backed by French ECA, Coface.

  • (Military Technologies, London/Rome/Milan, 16 December 2016) SACE and SIMEST (Cassa Depositi e Prestiti Group) and BNP Paribas Corporate & Institutional Banking (CIB) announce the finalisation of export financing of $519 million for National Grid North America, a company of the National Grid Plc Group, the UK’s main electricity and gas utility company, in support of the works and supply orders awarded to Prysmian as part of the international project North Sea Link (“NSN Link”). The project, which has a total value of €2 billion, involves the construction of a subsea interconnector with a capacity of 1,400 MW between the United Kingdom and Norway. Once completed, it will extend over 730 kilometres becoming the longest infrastructure of its kind in the world.

  • (GM Today, Waukesha, 24 January 2017) With a possible tariff imposed upon companies that manufacture products out of the country and bring them back in looming, GE will not alter its plan to send 350 manufacturing jobs from its Waukesha plant to Canada. Instead, the company remains open to the possibility of working with the city in the future to repurpose its GE Power & Water facility. GE announced in September 2015 that it was going to stop manufacturing gas engines in Waukesha in favor of a new $265 million facility to be built in Welland, Ontario, Canada. GE’s manufacturing of those engines in Waukesha Wisconsin will cease around 2018. The reason for the move, the company said, was because at the time, Congress had allowed the Export-Import Bank’s authorization to lapse. A GE spokesman said the company will continue investing in the United States and possibly Waukesha, but without a fully-operational Ex-Im Bank, large projects become increasingly more difficult to initiate. The move to Canada is going ahead despite President Trump's vow to impose a 35% tax tariff on products they want to sell back in the U.S. on companies if they leave the country. [Efforts to allow the Ex-Im Board to fund deals over $10 million still face opposition in Congress despite support from business and some conservatives.]

  • (Reuters, London, 16 January 2017) Britain's credit export agency, UK Export Finance (UKEF), signed its first direct loan deal in Africa on Monday, providing $310 million to GE Oil & Gas to supply equipment for an oil and gas project in Ghana. UKEF's loan and credit facility is part of a wider $1.35 billion financing for the Offshore Cape Three Points (OCTP) project, developed by Eni, Vitol Ghana Upstream and the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation. The $7.9 billion project will tap offshore oil and gas resources and provide fuel for gas-fired power plants in Ghana. Oil and gas production from the project is expected to peak at 80,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in 2019. It builds on an agreement signed in 2015 between UKEF and UK-headquartered GE Oil & Gas to provide up to $12 billion in financing. The GE subsidiary, which won an $850 million contract to supply equipment to the OCTP project in 2015, manufactures oil and gas equipment at factories in Bristol and Aberdeen.

  • (Premium Times, Abuja, 9 January 2017) President Idriss Deby Itno of Chad, on December 30, 2016, ratified the Agreement on the Establishment of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), concluding the formalisation of the country’s membership of the continental trade finance bank. The ratification of the Agreement marks the full activation of Chad’s membership of Afreximbank and allows the Bank to fully deploy its programmes and facilities in the country in order to stimulate trade activities and develop value-added exports across its economic sectors. It also opens up opportunities for the Bank to provide much-needed financing for the construction of trade-enabling infrastructure in the country.