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.

  • (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.

  • (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.