Index for May 2019

Volume 18, Issue 5

  • (Friends of the Earth, Washington, 8 May 2019) The U.S. Senate today voted to confirm 3 nominees to the Board of Directors of the U.S. Export-Import Bank. The confirmation allows Ex-Im to establish a board quorum, clearing the way for the bank to revive its financing of billions of dollars in fossil fuel projects abroad. After nearly four years without full authority to operate, today’s Senate vote paves the way for 12 fossil fuel projects in the agency’s queue to progress forward to a board vote — with many more applications for financing likely to come. These dirty projects will result in tens of millions of tons of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere annually. “By approving these new directors, the Senate is letting the Export-Import Bank fuel the crisis of climate change,” said Doug Norlen, economic policy program director at Friends of the Earth. “The bank will return to its past practice of supporting projects that damage the global climate, harm community health, violate human rights and hasten corruption. Rather than addressing the threat of climate change proactively, this is a vote to make the Export-Import Bank Trump’s billion-dollar fossil fuel slush fund.” Two Presidential Candidates have now said they want Ex-Im Bank's fossil fuel financing halted.  Sen. Bernie Sanders voted against Trump's nominees and is quoted in this article saying Ex-Im “should not be providing low-interest loans and loan guarantees to big fossil fuel companies that are endangering the planet.”  And, Washington State Governor and Presidential Candidate Jay Inslee just released his Evergreen Economy for America Plan which pledges "to cease all support for new fossil energy projects" by Ex-Im Bank and OPIC. Ex-Im's Congressional authorization expires Sept. 30, so the fight is brewing again!

  • (ctpost, Norwalk, 8 May 019) No federal agency has lived such a bizarre state of suspended animation as has the Export-Import Bank, a long-obscure bureau that provides loan guarantees to U.S. companies doing business abroad. Rather than heralding it as a force for job creation, free-market conservatives turned Ex-Im into an ideological rallying cry that led to some of the most bitter disputes in Republican circles this decade. GOP senators called each other liars. House conservatives threatened to oust the speaker. Rank-and-file Republicans rebelled against the rebellion to save the bank. That changed Wednesday, when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., allowed confirmation votes on three board members, each of whom passed with near-unanimous Democratic support and sizeable Republican opposition. Once again, Ex-Im is back in business, able to support loans larger than $10 million for some of the largest U.S. exporters. But the fight is far from over. Just as it is finally getting a board, the Ex-Im Bank faces another fight over its very existence, as the 2015 legislation reauthorizing the agency is set to expire in the fall, setting up a debate that never seems to end and has left the bank's supporters continually puzzled.

  • (Yorkton This Week, Yorkton SK, 15 May 2019) Export Development Canada (EDC), Canada's export credit agency, was created in 1944 to promote Canadian business overseas. It has 12 offices across Canada and 19 regional offices around the world. According to CBC reports SNC Lavelin have borrowed billions of dollars since the mid 1990’s from EDC. SNC Lavalin resulted from a merger of Surveyor, Nenniger, Chenevert and Lavalin all based in Quebec in 1991 instantly becoming one of the five largest engineering/construction companies in the world. They have been doing work in countries where bribery and corruption are common practice. They conform to the culture of the country and perform with their own questionable behavior. SNC Lavalin have been working on a slippery and shady slope. Even when applying for loans, they insert unsupported contingencies which seem to infer bribery money. Their worsening reputation worldwide was highlighted in 2011 and 2012 with high profile executives being arrested and jailed in Switzerland, the corporate head office of their construction division. Corruption had been uncovered for work being done in Mexico, Libya and Bangledesh. A result of this incident was the World Bank suspending a 1.2 billion dollar loan application for a proposed project in Bangledesh. In April, 2012 the World Bank suspended SNC Lavalin from bidding on any other bank projects. It would be interesting to see a complete list of their ongoing allegations!

  • (Globe and Mail, Toronto, 14 May 2019) Canada’s overseas development finance arm is joining forces with a U.S. government agency that is being set up to act as a counterweight to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a state-sponsored foreign-investment scheme by Beijing. The U.S. government’s Overseas Private Investment Corp. (OPIC) says in a statement the agreement it signed with both Canada’s FinDev and the European Union last month creates an alliance of development finance institutions that will enhance co-operation and underscore their collective commitment to "providing a robust alternative to unsustainable state-led models.” The Canadian government’s development finance arm is being funded with $300-million from the retained earnings of Export Development Canada, the federal government’s export credit agency.

  • (Guardian, London, 8 May 2019) The British government’s aid spending is failing to recognise the “scale and urgency” of the climate change challenge facing the world, MPs warn. Climate change must be placed at the centre of aid strategy and funding, if it is to address the seriousness of threats facing developing countries, the committee said. It urged a minimum spend of £1.76bn annually and a halt to funding fossil fuel projects in developing countries, unless they can demonstrate they support transition to zero emissions by 2050. The report highlighted “incoherent policy” by, showing the government spent £4.8bn on support for fossil fuel projects in 2010-16 via UK Export Finance, almost matching the £4.9bn spent on its International Climate Fund in a similar period, 2011-17. It has created a situation where “the UK government is providing climate aid with one hand and exporting the UK’s fossil fuel pollution with the other”, the report found. Ban Ki-moon, the former UN secretary general, urged Britain to stop funding fossil fuels overseas earlier this year.

  • (Resource China, New York, 25 April 2019) Worldwide, a growing list of insurers now refuse to cover coal projects, citing risks from climate change and overcapacity. But Sinosure, the sole underwriter of coal-fired power plants along China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), has yet to show any indicator of leaving coal behind. China’s foreign direct investment has more than doubled over the past three years, with much of it funneled into energy development. Coal has dominated these investments, combining coal-rich resources in many Belt and Road countries and China’s coal tech. Observers tend to focus on the role of financiers and power companies in overseas coal projects, but the importance of insurers should not be overlooked. Because insurance is a prerequisite for obtaining a loan on an overseas investment project, support from an insurer is needed for a project to move forward. State-owned China Export & Credit Insurance Corporation, known as Sinosure, acts as gatekeeper of energy investments along the BRI. Sinosure is China’s only policy insurer to cover overseas coal-fired power projects, meaning that overseas coal power projects require a green light from Sinosure to go ahead. By the end of 2018, Sinosure had underwritten 28 gigawatts of coal power capacity worldwide, exceeding the entire coal capacity of Australia.

  • (Bank Watch, Prishtina 13 May 2019) Kosovar and international non-governmental organisations have today submitted an official complaint to the Energy Community dispute settlement mechanism challenging the legality of the power purchase agreement for the planned Kosova e Re coal power project, which is currently awaiting ratification by the Kosovo parliament. The complaint alleges that the 20-year power purchase agreement, signed by the Kosovar government with ContourGlobal in December 2017 fails to comply with the Energy Community Treaty rules on state  aid because it provides ContourGlobal a range of benefits that give it an unfair advantage over other energy producers. The contract would also put an unbearable strain on the state budget and Kosovar electricity consumers as it guarantees that a state-owned company will buy all the electricity generated by ContourGlobal at a “target price” of EUR 80/MWh – much higher than current electricity prices in the region. The World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) have refused to provide support for the 500 MW New Kosovo coal power plant. Kosovo and London-listed power firm ContourGlobal said on Friday May 10 they had chosen a consortium of General Electric subsidiaries to build and equip a new 500 megawatt (MW) coal-fired power plant in the Balkan country. Kosovo has turned to the Trump administration for help to build a coal-fired power plant after losing the backing of the World Bank and the EBRD.

  • (Los Angeles Times, Suralaya, 13 May 2019) In the last-ditch global battle against climate change, China, Japan and South Korea have joined other industrialized nations in promising to reduce their use of fossil fuels. Yet even as they take steps to promote renewable energy at home, these three countries are facing growing scrutiny for financing dozens of new coal-fired power plants in foreign countries, primarily underwritten by their export credit agencies. Most of the plants are being built in Southeast Asia and Africa, in emerging economies where the growing demand for cheap, reliable electricity is most easily met by coal, the single largest source of the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for warming the planet. Environmental groups accuse the three Asian giants of climate hypocrisy.

  • (Deutsche Welle, Bonn, 29 May 2019) Financial troubles may force Malaysia to drop its plans to buy highly capable multirole combat aircraft (MRCA) and settle for cheaper, less capable fighter jets to replace its current fleet of Russian MiG 29s that are mostly grounded. Europe's MRCA makers Eurofighter and Dassault Aviation have been wooing Malaysia for almost a decade for a deal. Kuala Lumpur has threatened to boycott EU goods, if the 28-nation bloc goes ahead with its plan to phase out palm oil from transport fuel after the European Commission concluded that palm oil cultivation, with some exceptions, caused deforestation and that its use in transport fuels could not be counted toward its renewable energy goals. Malaysia has said China, Russia and Pakistan have expressed their willingness to be partly paid in palm oil for their fighter jets. This is likely to complicate matters for the RMAF, which has traditionally preferred using Western equipment, including on its Russian Sukhoi jets. Malaysia's latest attempt at barter trade could be beneficial for Russia, which has seen China walk away with many defense deals in the region and undercut Moscow's arm supplies. Russia has a long track record of swapping weapons for commodities in the region, including as part of its fighter jet deals with Indonesia and Vietnam.

  • (US General Accounting Office, Washington, 23 May 2019) The Export-Import Bank (EXIM) of the United States provides financing to support U.S. jobs and companies selling U.S. goods and services abroad. EXIM requires companies applying for certain financing to self-certify that they do not have delinquent federal debt. Financial pressures that stem from such debt can tempt companies to fraudulently apply for financing. However, after analyzing federal data, we identified billions of dollars in authorized EXIM transactions associated with dozens of companies that potentially had such debt. We recommended EXIM explore opportunities to use federal data when verifying companies' program eligibility.

  • (National Post, Ottawa,  May 2019) OTTAWA — Export Development Canada is declaring itself a leading defender of human rights, but workers groups and advocates say the Crown agency’s long-awaited new policy falls well short of what’s needed. The United Steel Workers of Canada declared it a missed chance to show leadership in global finance, business and human rights. The arrival of the new policy comes as Canadian businesses and human-rights advocates await a legal review by International Trade Minister Jim Carr that will determine the powers of the government’s new “ombudsperson for responsible enterprise.” Karen Hamilton, the spokeswoman for Above Ground, a non-governmental agency that specializes in tracking human rights infractions involving businesses, said the group hopes Carr’s legal review leads to a change in EDC’s legislation to make stronger human rights obligations mandatory. “If we really want to see change, it has to be legislated,” Hamilton said.