Index for June 2019

Volume 6, Issue 18

  • (EU Today, London, 9 June 2019) For the first time, a Parliamentary committee has called for an end to taxpayer support for overseas fossil fuel projects. The Government must move immediately to end UKEF’s fossil fuel support, or all its talk of a ‘climate emergency’ will be seen as hollow words. The UK Government must act on today’s report by parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee about UK Export Finance, which calls for an end to UK taxpayer support for overseas fossil fuel projects by 2021. UK Export Finance (UKEF), the UK’s export credit agency, underwrites loans and insurance for export deals as part of efforts to help British business overseas. Global Witness was instrumental in calling for Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee to set up the inquiry into UKEF. (26 June 2019, edie newsroom) Thousands of campaigners across the UK are marching today towards Parliament in a bid to urge MPs and the Government to strengthen commitments to tackling climate change, just days after the House of Commons approved draft recommendations for a national net-zero target.

  • (Reuters, London, 24 June 2019) Despite promising a decade ago to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, the world’s leading economies more than doubled subsidies to coal-fired power plants over three years, putting climate goals at risk, energy researchers said Tuesday. Between 2014 and 2017, G20 governments more than halved direct support for coal mining, from $22 billion to about $10 billion on average each year, according to a report by the London-based Overseas Development Institute (ODI), a think tank. But over the same period they boosted backing for coal-fired power plants - particularly supporting construction of the plants in other, often poorer nations - from $17 billion to $47 billion a year. While spending from national budgets on coal fell, as did tax breaks for it, other forms of support - from development finance institutions, export-credit agencies and state-owned enterprises - soared. Four countries alone, the UK, France, Canada and Ireland have all formally recognised a climate crisis but analysis shows they give $27.5bn annually in support for coal, oil and gas, much of it via ECAs.

  • (Globe and Mail, Toronto, 4 June 2019) Export Development Canada once described itself as the country’s ‘secret trade weapon.’ But The Globe’s review of thousands of transactions reveals a pattern of secrecy and lax supervision. In Latin America, billions of dollars in Canadian government-backed loans have been funnelled to two of the region’s most notorious oil companies: the state-owned petroleum corporations of Mexico and Brazil, each riddled with frequent reports of bribery, bid-rigging and inflated contracts. In Africa, hundreds of millions of dollars in financing has been channelled to companies at the heart of South Africa’s worst postapartheid corruption scandal: the state-owned freight rail monopoly and the business empire of the infamous Gupta brothers, whose relationship with ex-president Jacob Zuma triggered a public inquiry into state corruption. And in Canada, billions of dollars in federal export loans have gone to support transactions that benefit Bombardier Inc. and SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., two companies that have been cited in corruption investigations in Asia, Africa and Europe. SNC-Lavalin’s head of compliance says the firm is still hoping to reach an out-of-court settlement on bribery, fraud charges.  EDC has declared 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.

  • (Peace FM Online, Accra, 25 June 2019) African Foreign Ministers attending the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Coordinators’ meeting in Beijing yesterday met Chinese financial institutions who introduced them to their array of financial products. This is in line with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s [2015 and then 2018] $60 billion pledge in financial support to African countries. The breakdown showed that $5 billion was free aid and interest-free loans, while $35 billion was for preferential loans and export credit on more favourable terms, and five billion dollars for additional capital for the China Africa development fund. Five billion dollars was also up for initial capital of special loans for the development of African small to medium enterprises each, and $10 billion for China-Africa production capacity cooperation fund.

  • (Global Trade Review, London, 19 June 2019) Hermes, OeKB and Serv – the export credit agencies (ECAs) of Germany, Austria and Switzerland respectively – have agreed to join forces to improve opportunities for their exporters in the face of increased competition from Asia. While the statement doesn’t call out China by name, Chinese export credits have long been seen as a competitive threat by Europe’s ECAs. China is not a member of the OECD and is therefore not obliged to comply with the OECD guidelines that stipulate the financial terms and conditions that its members may offer, leaving scope for an unfair advantage for Chinese exporters.

  • (Kikkei Asian Review, Tokyo, 25 June 2019) Japan, the U.S. and Australia have picked a liquefied natural gas project in Papua New Guinea as their first case for joint financing in the Indo-Pacific region, planning to lend over $1 billion, Nikkei has learned. Three government-backed lenders -- Japan Bank for International Cooperation, the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corp. and Australia's Export Finance and Insurance Corp. -- plan to issue a statement on Tuesday regarding their joint infrastructure efforts. The three countries agreed in November to join hands in financing infrastructure projects in the Indo-Pacific to offer an alternative to China's Belt and Road initiative. The LNG project in Papua New Guinea marks the first project in this three-way cooperation.

  • (Politico, Washington, 26 June 2019) House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) on Wednesday shelved a bipartisan Export-Import Bank bill that sparked a fierce backlash from her own caucus. The original compromise she drafted with Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) ignited criticism from a wide swath of the Democrats on the committee — centrists and progressives alike, from the most senior members to newly elected freshmen, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who objected to new restrictions that would be imposed on the bank and big manufacturers such as Boeing, that benefit from its loan guarantees, as well as the lack of tougher environmental safeguards for energy projects financed abroad. Reps. Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) were preparing to offer amendments that would impose new limits on the agency's financing of fossil fuel power plants abroad with the political backing of dozens of environmental groups. Limits on sales to China were a must-have for McHenry, who argued that it was a way to curb what he saw as a subsidy for an economic competitor. The bank is only now returning to full operation after years of being hobbled by conservative Republican lawmakers who criticized the agency as engaging in "crony capitalism" and posing a risk to taxpayers, even though it returns money to the Treasury. McHenry had predicted a strong Republican vote in favor of the bill thanks to the compromises Waters agreed to, while disgruntled Democrats were frustrated that Waters negotiated the bill with the Republicans and expected Democrats to fall in line without more of their input.

  • (Reuters, Washington, 28 June 2019) China provided as much as $130 billion in government export financing support in 2018, dwarfing every other country and fueling a new export lending arms race, the U.S. Export-Import Bank said in a report on Friday. In the last full year that EXIM had complete lending powers, fiscal 2014, the agency provided $20.5 billion in financing support for $27.5 billion worth of U.S. exports. During the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2018, EXIM authorized only $3.3 billion in financing, supporting $6.8 billion worth of U.S. exports, according to EXIM’s most recent annual report. EXIM has been a popular target for conservatives, who have branded it as a provider of “corporate welfare” and “crony capitalism.” The reinstatement of its lending powers is a boon for large U.S. manufacturers such as Boeing Co (BA.N), General Electric (GE.N) and Caterpillar Inc (CAT.N), which can once again offer U.S.-government-backed financing for overseas customers.

  • (Financial Times, London, 27 June 2019) A Kenyan court has halted construction of the country’s first coal-fired power station on environmental grounds in a blow for the $2bn project’s Chinese backers and the green credentials of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Owned by the Kenya-based Amu Power and funded with export credit from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the contentious project has sparked a heated debate in Kenya about the potential impact of coal-based power on the country’s ecosystem. Located on Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast approximately 14 miles north of Lamu town, a tourist destination and Unesco World Heritage site, environmentalists say the plant will pollute the air and destroy mangroves and the breeding grounds of endangered species.

  • (Asia Shipping Media, Singapore, 5 June 2019)  Norway is pushing to create a shipbuilding regulation akin to the ship recycling sector’s Hong Kong Convention whereby yards will be blacklisted for financing if they are found to have deficient labour and human rights standards. The initiative is being led by the Norwegian Export Credit Guarantee Agency (GIEK), the giant Norwegian state-run financing institution. Speaking at a human rights in shipping seminar yesterday on the sidelines of the Nor-Shipping exhibition just outside Oslo, Sigrid Brynestad, GIEK’s senior sustainability expert, revealed her organisation has already blacklisted two yards for their human rights abuses. GIEK will not help finance any Norwegian ships at the two yards.

  • (Asia Shipping Media, Singapore, 18 June 2019) Eleven major shipping banks have joined a global framework called the Poseidon Principles to integrate climate considerations into lending decisions in line with IMO’s greenhouse gas (GHG) strategy to slash the industry’s carbon footprint by 50% by 2050. The Poseidon Principles are applicable to lenders, relevant lessors, and financial guarantors including export credit agencies. Around 90% of global trade by volume is carried by ships - making the maritime industry a vital player in economic growth, but at a cost. If it were a country, shipping would equal Germany for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Together they represent a bank loan portfolio to global shipping of approximately $100 billion – around 20% of the global ship finance portfolio.

  • (Lexology, Brussels, 24 June 2019) In January 2019, the European Commission announced its intention to extend, for a period of two years, 7 sets of State aid rules, which were due to expire in 2020, [including the Communication on Short-Term Export Credit Insurance]. In this respect, the European Commission launched public and targeted consultations to assess the relevance, effectiveness and coherence of these sets of rules and to check whether they are still appropriate for the objective pursued. The Commission, as the guardian of competition under the Treaty, has always strongly condemned export aid for intra-Union trade and for exports outside the Union... to prevent Member States’ support for export-credit insurance from distorting competition