Index for February 2018

Volume 17, Issue 2

  • (Finance & Trade Watch and CEE Bankwatch, Dec. 2017) Export credits are big business. Members of the industry’s Berne Union, both state and private, insured approximately USD 1.9 trillion per year between 2012 and 2016, of which USD1 trillion was state ECA insured. That amount far exceeds the total investments of multilateral lenders such as the World Bank and the regional development banks and represents some 11% of world trade Between 2015 and 2017, Finance & Trade Watch and Bankwatch, together with their national partners, researched state export credit agencies (ECAs) in seven countries of the European Union (Austria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia). The aim of this research was to assess how the procedures and performance of these institutions comply with the relevant national, European and international regulatory frameworks. These include transparency, accountability, environmental and social standards as reflected in the OECD (Common Approaches), the EU (ECA Regulation) and the UN (Sustainable Development Goals, the Aarhus Convention and the Paris Agreement). Their report finds: a lack of ECA transparency, dubious investements, particularly in fossil fuels, projects contrary to national greenhouse gas commitments under the Paris Agreement, and OECD and EU standards and monitoring which are voluntary and unable to guarantee that prohibited investments are being approved. This has led to their involvement in a number of economically and politically-compromising projects. This first-of-its-kind research examines ECAs in the ‘new’ EU Member States and compares these with an example from the EU 15 – the Austrian ECA OeKB – as well as examples from other EU 15 countries. It shows regulatory gaps and offers a range of policy recommendations. The full report is available here and a summary here.

  • (Natural Resources Defense Council, New York, 8 February 2018) In 2017, financing from G20 governments for overseas coal projects reached a 5 year high, totaling at least $13 billion in loans, credits, and guarantees. This financial support for coal projects directly undermines G20 climate commitments and ignores the reality that a rapid coal phase out is needed if the world is to reach the 1.5 degree temperature goal under the Paris Climate Agreement. This is the 2nd year in a row that G20 public financing has increased for coal power projects in foreign countries. G20 public financing here refers to financial backing from government export credit agencies, like Japan Bank for International Cooperation, development banks, like China Development Bank, and government insurance entities, like Korea Trade Insurance Corporation. Public financial support is given to benefit domestic companies who are involved in projects abroad — for example, in 2017, Japan Bank of International Cooperation provided a $730 million dollar loan to enable Marubeni, a Japanese company, to develop the 1000 MW Cirebon 2 Coal Power Station in Indonesia. Public financial support can take the form of loans, guarantees, export and import credits, grants, and equity financing.

  • (New York Times, Hong Kong, 13 February 2018) A Vietnamese company is no longer seeking American financial support to build a coal-fired power plant in Vietnam, bringing to an abrupt end a closely watched test of whether Washington would back international projects that could potentially contribute to climate change. On Thursday, the Export-Import Bank of the United States, a lender run by the American government, said the Vietnamese state-controlled company, PetroVietnam, had withdrawn its application for financial support. In this case, a green light would have allowed PetroVietnam to purchase millions of dollars’ worth of turbines and other equipment from General Electric, the American manufacturer. The project, which is already under construction, faced intense criticism inside and outside the United States. Environmental and other groups said the project would have had a greater environmental impact than reports submitted by PetroVietnam had suggested. The World Bank and other major institutions have increasingly avoided backing projects supported by developing countries that burn coal and other fossil fuels, which emit greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. The UK’s version of the Ex-Im Bank had declined to offer financial support for the Long Phu 1 project for similar reasons.

  • (Climate Home News, London, 14 February 2018) The London-based bank plans to co-finance Nghi Son 2 power plant, which NGOs say uses dirty old technology, against company and OECD guidelines. The proposed financing arrangements also appear to breach the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s guidelines on coal, which restrict governments from using public export finance for new coal plants. Both Japan's and Korea’s export credit agencies, which help companies to export and win international business, are backing the project. Environmental NGOs Market Forces and Greenpeace analysed data from the project’s environmental impact assessment,  released last week by Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) — an export credit agency wholly owned by the Japanese government. Vietnam’s expansion of coal-fired power generation to meet booming energy demand has led to major concerns over public health. The number of coal plants in Vietnam is projected to rise from 38 to 133, including all plants currently planned or under construction. Citing a study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology  last year, Myllyvirta said coal-fired power plants were responsible for an estimated 4,300 premature deaths in Vietnam in 2011 alone. The study forecasts that by 2030 there will be more than 19,220 deaths per year due to coal pollution.

  • (Associated Press, Bismark, 9 February 2018) Attorneys for a Florida-based environmental publication want a federal judge in North Dakota to sanction the Texas-based developer of the Dakota Access oil pipeline in a dispute over whether the publication can be sued. Earth First Journal maintains Energy Transfer Partners attorneys aren't acting in good faith by associating the publication with the Earth First social movement, which the company contends was part of an effort to undermine the pipeline project and the company. Energy Transfer in August sued Greenpeace, BankTrack and Earth First for up to $1 billion, alleging the environmental groups disseminated false and misleading information about the $3.8 billion pipeline moving oil from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois, and instigated violent protests. Journal attorney Pamela Spees maintains the journal and movement aren't the same thing, and that the insistence of company attorneys to the contrary is "intentional and reckless disregard of their duties to the court." Spees asked Hovland to order the plaintiffs to pay the center's fees and to educate lawyers at the plaintiff firms about the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which she claims have been violated.

  • (The Economist, Singapore, 8 February 2018) A management shake-out may reawaken national rivalries at the European aerospace giant. “The success of Airbus is intimately linked to the success of John [Leahy],” says Eric Schulz, successor to John Leahy, who has been chief salesman for the planemaker since 1994. Mr Leahy’s aggressive strategy to gain orders expanded Airbus’s market share for civil jets from 18% in 1994 to over 50%. But this year’s Singapore Airshow, which began on February 6th, will be Mr Leahy’s last before retirement. Staff turnover does not stop there. In December the firm said Tom Enders, its German-born chief executive, would step down in 2019; his French second-in-command, Fabrice Brégier, will leave this month. These changes follow the news that several countries, including Britain, France and America, are investigating allegations that in the past Airbus bribed officials to win contracts. That created divisions between French and German executives over how to respond.

  • (Reuters, London, 12 February 2018) BAE Systems will provide Malaysia a UK government-backed financing deal if it decides to replace its fleet of combat jets with the Eurofighter Typhoon, senior company officials said. Malaysia has for several years been weighing France’s Rafale jet and the Eurofighter Typhoon, built by a European consortium including Britain’s BAE, as it looks to buy up to 18 jets to replace its Russian MiG-29s - most of which are grounded. The contest, potentially worth over $2 billion, is one of the biggest fighter deals under consideration in Asia. Financing would be provided via the UK Export Finance export credit agency.

  • (Associated Press Australia, Sydney, 28 February 2018) The Defence Department can't say exactly how many Australian jobs will be created out of the Turnbull government's plan to make the country a top 10 global arms exporters in the next decade. The issue was canvassed during a robust exchange between Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson and Defence Minister Marise Payne at a Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday. The centrepiece of the government's ambitious plan is a $3.8 billion defence export facility within the export credit agency to help companies get finance to underpin sales of equipment overseas. "How is this good bang for our buck?" Senator Whish-Wilson asked, adding he wanted evidence it was the most cost-effective way for the government to create jobs. Department official Marc Ablong said no calculations had been carried out. "It's up to other agencies to determine whether there are more cost-effective ways for the government to spend the government's resources," Mr Ablong said.

  • (Xinhua, Beijing, 28 February 2018) With China's Belt and Road Initiative gaining more recognition globally, Western banks are rushing in for a piece of the pie in this once in a generation opportunity. British and U.S. banks, including Citigroup, HSBC and Standard Chartered have been seizing opportunities brought about by the initiative proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013. The initiative aims to create greater trade, infrastructure and people-to-people links between Asia, Europe, Africa and beyond by reviving and expanding the ancient Silk Road routes. The modern version comprises an overland Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. As one example, Standard Chartered Bank has taken the initiative as a key part of its plan to generate the revenue growth necessary to achieve its target of making a return on equity above 10 percent. The bank has won 20 financing deals linked to the initiative over the past four years, such as a 515 million U.S. dollars project financing for a power plant in Zambia, a 200 million dollars loan for a Bangladesh electricity plant, and a 42 million dollars export credit facility for a gas terminal in Sri Lanka. [We will be following how ECAs swing in behind the banks on this initiative.]

  • (Reuters, Washington, 21 February 2018) The U.S. Treasury’s top diplomat ramped up his criticisms of China’s economic policies on Wednesday, accusing Beijing of “patently non-market behavior” and saying that the United States needed stronger responses to counter it. He said market-oriented, democratic governments were awakening to the challenges posed by China’s economic system, including from its state-owned banks and export credit agencies. And he reiterated his view that China had stopped liberalizing its economy and was actually reversing these trends. China says that its state-owned enterprises operate on free-market principles and is battling within the World Trade Organization’s dispute settlement system to be recognized as a “market economy” -- a designation that would weaken U.S. and EU trade defenses. [and their own ECA trade subsidies?]

  • (Global Trade Review, London, 22 February 2018) No less than 467 protectionist measures were implemented worldwide in 2017, with the US responsible for 90 of them. But while protectionism is still rising, the scale of the increase is slowing: in 2016 there were 827 new measures introduced. Research from Euler Hermes, a trade credit insurer, found that the US “decided to bolster measures to counteract perceived protectionism from key competitors” in 2017. The Trump administration implemented 30 new import tariff measures, 20 anti-dumping measures and 17 tariffs on China alone, with the headline tariff being the 30% import tariff on Chinese solar panels. Euler Hermes also found that many trading powerhouses use what it considers to be protectionism to boost their exports. Among these is export credit agency (ECA) support, with Japan being highlighted for adopting 137 protectionist measures pertaining to its ECAs over the past four years.

  • (The Hill, Washington, 20 Feb 2018) A bipartisan group of 68 House lawmakers are urging Senate leaders to get the Export-Import Bank running at full speed again. In December, the Senate Banking Committee approved four nominees to the Ex-Im board — Kimberly Reed, Spencer Bachus, Judith Pryor and Claudia Slacik. Since 2015, the Ex-Im Bank has been without a quorum on its board, which prohibits the agency from making deals of more than $10 million. Without a quorum in fiscal 2017, the bank only authorized $2.4 billion in loans, guarantees and insurance, supporting just 2,412 exporters, 40,000 jobs and $7.4 billion in U.S. export sales, the letter said. That is a sharp decline from 2014, when the bank approved $20.5 billion in business, which supported 3,563 exporters, 165,000 jobs, and $27.5 billion in exports.

  • (Reuters, Kuwait, 13 February 018) The United States has urged members of the coalition fighting Islamic State to help rebuild Iraq or risk a reversal of the gains made against the group. Secretary of State Tillerson said the official U.S. export credit agency, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM), would sign a $3 billion memorandum of understanding with Iraq’s finance ministry “that will set a stage for future cooperation”. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, whose government puts the costs of reconstruction at more than $88 billion, said Iraq could not rebuild without outside help.  Iraq received pledges of $30 billion, mostly in credit facilities and investment, on Wednesday from allies but this fell short of the $88 billion Baghdad says it needs to recover from three years of war. Officials say almost $23 billion is needed for short-term reconstruction and over $65 billion in the medium term. UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner told Reuters Iraq might have been unable to attract more pledges due to its association with corruption. Investors see Iraq as the 10th most corrupt country, according to Transparency International.

  • (Business Live, Johannesburg, 20 February 2018) Showing its commitment to promoting intra-African trade and economic integration, South Africa has taken up shareholding in the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), the continental multilateral trade finance institution. The South African government is represented by the Export Credit Insurance Corporation of South Africa (ECIC) as its designated investor, in line with the terms of the provisions of the charter of the bank. The shareholding makes South Africa the 47th African country to join Afreximbank as a participating state and/or shareholder. “South Africa accounts for about 30%–35% of total intra-African trade,” he added, “making its membership critical for the attainment of the bank's strategic goal of moving intra-African trade share of Africa’s total trade from about 15% currently to 22% by 2021, and raising its annual value to more than $250bn by that year.

  • (Globe and Mail, Toronto, 19 February 2018) Canada's export credit agency is worried that a Canadian EDC financed Bombardier luxury jet could become the escape vehicle for the controversial Gupta brothers as they flee a corruption prosecution in South Africa, according to court papers filed by the agency in Johannesburg.

  • (Armenian Environmental Front, Yerevan, 11 February 2018) In February 2017, the Armenian Environmental Front (AEF) published information on supporters of a gold mine in Amulsar Mountain next to the resort of Jermuk. They now have presented the key entities responsible for funding and equipping the Amulsar gold mine project. The AEF is challenging plans to develop a gold mine in close proximity to the environmentally sensitive Jermuk resort in violation of Armenian legislation. Environmental and social impact assessments are said to be substantially incomplete and incorrect and international expert groups from Australia, USA and Canada, having studied dozens of documents available on the Lydian International corporate website, have presented their assessments and conclusions on the environmental risks of the gold project in Amulsar. They note: "Our overall conclusion remains that the high risk of acid drainage and contaminant leaching, the poor geochemical evaluation, the inadequate water quality predictions and mitigation measures and Lydian’s inexperience combine to make this an environmentally high-risk project during mining and for a lengthy period after operations cease." The AEF notes that a number of ECAs and international finance bodies have supported the project, among them: SEK - Sweden’s Export Credit Corporation (US$50 million via Dutch ING Bank); EKN - Swedish Export Credit Agency (Guarantees for the SEK credit); Sandvik SRP AB – a Swedish mining equipment company (recipient of the SEK & EKN support); the Swiss-Swedish ABB Group; the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank Group (IFC's compliance branch concluded in 2017 that there were "shortcomings in IFC’s appraisal and supervision of the project as relate to a  number of the issues raised in the complaints and found that IFC’s pre-investment E&S review of the project was not commensurate to risk.";  and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) (Which has apparetnly refused to respond to the arguments of Armenian ecological organizations concerning social and ecological risks of the project and continues to support it.)

  • (Macahub, Luanda, 12 February 2018) Brazil has agreed to grant a credit insurance facility to Angola under the Export Guarantee Fund and support for the equalisation of interest rates through the Brazilian Export Financing Programme (Proex) for goods and services up to US$2 billion. Brazilian resources now made available through the state-owned National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES) will be used to carry out some projects included in the Public Investment Programme of the State Budget. BNDES has financed several projects with social and economic impact in Angola, including the construction of the Laúca Hydroelectric Dam, the Cambambe Dam, the water supply system for the cities of Benguela, Lobito and Catumbela, the construction of the Luanda-Viana Expressway, the construction of Catumbela International Airport and the construction of the Capanda Industrial Hub, among others.

  • (Reuters, London, 20 February 2018) Anadarko Petroleum’s plan to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Mozambique moved a step closer to completion on Tuesday after it agreed a 15-year LNG sales and purchase agreement (SPA) with Electricite de France. France’s state-controlled utility will take 1.2 million tonnes of LNG annually from the Mozambique Area 1 marketing venture led by Anadarko and consisting of Japanese trader Mitsui, India’s ONGC Videsh and Thailand’s PTT, among others. LNG project developers across the board have struggled to find the long-term buyers needed before banks and export credit agencies could commit financing for new plants.

Volume 17, Issue 1

  • (Kallanish Energy, Hammersmith, 5 January 201) With power demand in Southeast Asia expected to grow at roughly 4.6% per year in the next 10-plus years, baseload, low-cost coal-fired generation offers an investment opportunity of $250 billion over the next decade, Wood Mackenzie projects. The challenge though, lies in the financing of such projects, given that institutions, mostly export credit agencies (ECAs) in OECD countries, and European banks, [say they] are reducing their investment support in coal. Instead, they [claim they] will focus on renewables and less-polluting power generation alternatives, Kallanish Energy learns. [However, at the moment, OECD ECAs are funding 12 times as many dollars/euros per year in fossil fuel projects vs renewables.]

  • Does the OECD really support environmentally conscious economic policies?

    (ECA Watch, Ottawa, 31 January 2018) In a recent opinion article, Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki noted that the Secretary-General of the OECD supports environmentally conscious economic policies. Suzuki argued that in Angel Gurria we have one of the world's most influential economists urging dramatic climate action, including a higher, and rising, price on carbon. While Angel Gurria seems to be making appropriate noises about environmentally conscious economic policies, it cannot be assumed that the OECD is doing anything like that or about it. The role of the OECD Export Credit Working Group in promoting fossil fuels above renewable energy belies this flattery. Such OECD public relations statements contradict their on the ground policy and facts. While Carbon prices are part of the issue and might be part of the solution, contradictory actions and OECD ECA finance for 12 times as many fossil fuel projects as renewalbes, undermine them, go counter to them, and are defacto greenwashing.

  • (Fox Business, Dublin, 22 January 2018) Boeing and Airbus officials have signaled optimism that problems denting their access to government-backed plane financing are nearing resolution. Boeing and Airbus last year both delivered a record number of planes. Though commercial financing for the planes was ample, both Airbus and Boeing are eager to regain access to government-backed credit as an insurance. Some financially weaker airlines need to tap the government-backed financing or the plane makers themselves. Airbus also has been struggling to get backing from its governments for export deals. France, Germany and the U.K. in 2016 suspended financial backing for the plane maker's exports over British Serious Fraud Office concerns that Airbus had failed to fully disclose the use of middlemen in certain transactions. Euler Hermes said at the event that European financial institutions were still establishing a process to assure themselves of Airbus's compliance rules. The U.S. Export-Import Bank, or ExIm, which typically backs Boeing plane exports is affected by the U.S. government's partial shutdown absent a budget agreement. Even before the government shutdown of all-but essential staff, ExIm had been restricted to providing support to deals valued below $10 million because its board lacked sufficient members to approve larger transactions.