Index for September 2018

Volume 17, Issue 9

  • (Globe and Mail, Toronto, 26 September 2018) Ottawa has ordered the nation’s export credit agency to consider more carefully the human-rights implications of loans and insurance it offers in support of Canadian businesses. A Sept. 24 letter from International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr to Martine Irman, chair of Export Development Canada’s board of directors, urged the Crown corporation to ensure its internal procedures accord with Canada’s obligations under international humanitarian law. Human-rights and environmental-advocacy groups have criticized EDC for decades over what they say is a pattern of giving financial assistance to companies involved in harmful projects overseas. “The agency is essentially self-governing in the areas like environment, human rights and anti-corruption,” Karyn Keenan, director at ECA-Watch member Above Ground. Above Ground's submission to EDC on strengthening environmental and human rights protection can be found here and their recommendations on bringing EDC’s climate change policy in line with Canada’s commitments can be found here.

  • (Daily Maverick, Johannesburg, 3 September 2018) The Export Credit Insurance Corporation of South Africa (ECIC) uses public funds for international projects it chooses to invest in. Right now, the agency is considering lending a part of $14-billion needed by US energy company Anadarko for a giant liquefied natural gas project in Mozambique. Four ECAs are showing interest in providing them with credit for $12-billion of that amount –Italy (SACE), Japan (JBIC), China (C-EXIM), the US (US EXIM) and South Africa. According to an EIA conducted for Anadarko by Environmental Resources Management/Impacto, there will be “major” negative environmental and social impacts during the construction and operational phases. According to ECIC CEO Mandisi Nkuhlu, they are not bound by the ECA transparency guidelines of the OECD. The ECAs involved have collectively contracted an Italian consulting firm, RINA, to conduct an environmental impact assessment of the project. For local communities and the environment the project will be disastrous. The project is leaving entire communities landless, with no livelihood, and insufficient resettlement and compensation, if any. Unique ecosystems such as mangroves, endangered species of sea life, ocean flora and pristine beaches will be put at great risk. ECAs have a history of funding projects that are sometimes corrupt, violate human and environmental rights, and are financially and ethically questionable. The Canadian ECA, Export Development Canada, financed $41-million of a $52-million jet sold by Canadian company Bombardier to the notorious Gupta family, who have been deeply embroiled in state capture and systemic corruption in South Africa. The Canadian agency lent the Guptas $41-million to purchase a Canadian product from a company that was struggling financially.

  • (Global Legal Post, London, 29 August 2018) 20 environmental and civil liberties groups have joined foceces to protest against companies using lawsuits they say are aimed at silencing critics. The ‘Protect the Protest’ task force is targeting what it says are known as strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPs, which use legal action and the threat of financial risk to deter people and groups from speaking out against something they oppose. The twenty environmental and civil liberties groups say the lawsuits are aimed at limiting free speech and silencing critics. Katie Redford, co-founder and director of EarthRights International, says ‘we know from our own experience that this legal bullying tactic will work if it's not shut down.’

  • (Reuters, Beijing, 4 September 2018) A wave of African nations seeking to restructure their debt with China has served as a reality check for Beijing’s ties with the continent, though most of its countries still see Chinese lending as the best bet to develop their economies. China is helping Africa develop, not pile up debt, a top Chinese official said on Tuesday, as the government pushes back against criticism it is loading the continent with an unsustainable burden during a major summit in Beijing. Bloomberg noted that in recent months, Beijing has faced criticism about its debt practices from countries ranging from Australia to India, with even some Chinese academics airing doubts at home. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad warned against “a new version of colonialism” during a visit to Beijing last month after suspending a $20 billion Chinese-built rail project. Claims that China was an “economic predator” in Africa, pillaging natural resources and dragging it into a debt crisis, were “as false as they are sensational,” the Xinhua official news agency said in a commentary. Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged debt relief to some poorer African nations, attempting to push back against a major criticism of his signature Belt and Road Initiative. A recent Time Magazine opinion piece noted "As African countries sink deeper and deeper into Beijing’s carefully laid debt trap, the United States could pay a steep cost in reduced cooperation on counterterrorism and job creation.

  • (Daily Trust, Abuja, 3 September 2018) China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) has assured the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation of its unflinching commitment towards securing funding for the Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) pipeline project. Financing for the 40-inch by 614km AKK gas pipeline, enabling connectivity between the East, West and North that is currently non-existent, is expected to cost about $2.8 billion, for the project described as the single biggest gas pipeline in the history of oil and gas operations in Nigeria. While 85 percent of the money is expected to be funded by the financiers which include Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Bank of China, and Infrastructure Bank of China with Sinosure, China’s Export Credit Agency (ECA) providing insurance cover, the remaining 15 percent will be provided by the contractors which include Oilserve/Oando consortium, as well as Brentex/China Petroleum Pipeline (CPP) Bureau consortium.

  • (Handelsblatt, Berlin, 24 September 2018) German engineering conglomerate Siemens is nearing a massive contract to boost Iraq’s power generation infrastructure. The deal is thought to be worth between €8 and €13 billion ($11.75 – $15.25 billion) and consists of numerous smaller projects. They would involve partnerships with local contractors, which would receive part of the sum. Siemens' chief Joe Kaeser meeting with Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, in Baghdad, came after German Chancellor Angela Merkel had put in a special call to Mr. al-Abadi in support of the deal, government sources told Handelsblatt. A senior official in the economics ministry joined Mr. Kaeser to Iraq and Ms. Merkel’s government has also promised extensive export credit guarantees. If successful, the contract will be one of the largest in the company’s history.

  • (The Canary, London, 15 September 2018) UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid recently hailed the UAE’s important role and pioneering initiatives to promote international peace and security and combat extremism and terrorism. Javid’s comments come after the UN released a report on 28 August indicating the UAE may be guilty of committing war crimes in Yemen. In April 2018, the UK Government’s Export Credit Agency declared that the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which the UAE is a member, is a priority market and it established a “dedicated UK Export Finance team” based in the UAE. According to the Campaign Against Arms Trade, the UAE is Britain’s ninth largest purchaser of arms. From 2008 to 2018, UK weapons sales to the UAE totalled nearly £904m, a number which increases to more than £7.3bn if “dual-use” technology is included.

  • (South China Morning Post, Hong Kong, 21 September 2018) The Export-Import Bank of China, the country’s leading provider of export financing, will team up with other government agencies to help companies who have been hit hard by the US trade tariffs. Following Tuesday’s meeting of the State Council, China’s cabinet, Premier Li Keqiang announced a series of measures to support exporters, including cutting customs clearance red tape, reducing the cost of customs procedures, expanding export credit insurance and increasing export tax rebates. The announcement came hours after the US imposed tariffs on an additional US$200 billion of Chinese goods, on top of the $50 billion Chinese imports already sanctioned.

  • (Out-Law, London, 4 September 2018)  A new UK authority called the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) has been established to better inform businesses of the risks that arise from financial and trade sanctions that restrict trade and transactions with sanctioned persons, businesses and certain sectors. Arms embargoes and restrictions on exporting equipment and technology that can be used by the military are common and generally understood. What is also common, but less well understood, are the prohibitions or licence requirements on doing business with the thousands of people who are listed on sanctions lists or connected with such persons, and the sectoral trade restrictions can apply. For example, US government officials are warning UK banks (and OECD ECAs?) not to breach US sanctions against Iran and Russia. China's state-controlled Sinopec is pressing ahead with a $1.06bn upgrade project at Iran's 400,000 b/d Abadan refinery, despite the imminent return of US sanctions on Iran's energy sector. Companies have been rethinking plans to invest in Iran since the US withdrew from the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions. Some contracts have been cancelled with state-owned NIOC and its subsidiaries.

  • (Korea Times, Bangkok, 9 September 2018) [translation] At the UN office in Bangkok, Thailand, where negotiations were held to prepare detailed guidelines on the implementation of the 2015 Paris Convention on Climate Change, there were dozens of Asian environmental group activists including Japan's Friends of the Earth and WWF China Office. They criticized Korea, China, and Japan for their financial support for coal-fired power plants in Asia. "South Korea is one of the world's largest financial supporters of coal-fired power," said Bhadiy Dindinger, a member of the INSAF environmental group in India. "It has a huge impact on health damage and climate change."