Index for December 2021

Volume 20, Issue 12

  • (ECA Watch, Amsterdam, 25 November 2021) The European Commission is working on a proposal for a directive on corporate social governance, which will include a regulation of the human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD) obligations of corporations. We urge the proposed new regulation to become legally binding on the due diligence obligations of ECAs of member states, to make ECAs liable for its implementation and to implement export credit insurance as an enforcement mechanism for the legislation., This directive should oblige ECAs to monitor and follow HREDD policies and would ban companies, that have violated their duties under the directive, from ECA support.

  • (Reuters, London, 7 December 2021) – A legal challenge by Friends of the Earth against the British government will be heard on Tuesday in the High Court seeking to block a $1.15 billion financing for a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project in Mozambique, the environmental activist group said on Tuesday. Britain’s export credit agency UK Export Finance (UKEF) has committed to provide up to $1.15 billion of direct loans and guarantees to banks to support the design, build and operation of the $20 billion LNG project led by French energy company TotalEnergies. Friends of the Earth said in a statement the project was incorrectly judged to be compatible with the Paris climate agreement, without proper assessment of the development’s climate impacts. A recent report by Friends of the Earth estimated that the project could emit up to 4.5 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases over its lifetime. That is more than the combined annual emissions of all 27 EU countries, according to the authors of the report. The money – a combination of loans and guarantees – comes from the government’s export credit agency, UK Export Finance (UKEF). At an advanced point in the negotiations, UKEF “felt that not agreeing to the loan would be embarrassing to the United Kingdom given its role in the African Development Bank”, FOEUK lawyer Simor told the court. The African Development Bank is co-financing the project, which is led by oil company Total. Mozambique is not only one of the poorest countries in the world, but also one of the most affected by the climate crisis and most vulnerable to its impacts. It is also in the middle of a violent Islamic State-led insurgency.

  • (ECA Watch, Ottawa, 31 December 2021) The EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) which monitors non-EU European Free Trade Association States (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) has adopted two sets of revised guidelines in the field of state aid: one on the promotion of risk finance investments and another on short-term export credit insurance. Both guidelines correspond to guidelines adopted by the European Commission and aim to ensure [the fiction of] a level playing field for businesses across the EEA. State aid for export credits monitored by the EU [and the OECD] enable foreign buyers of goods and services to defer payment. This entails a credit risk for sellers, for which they can insure themselves. This is known as export credit insurance. The guidelines will [supposedly] help ensure that state aid does not distort competition in the EEA among private and public - or publicly supported - export credit insurers, and create a level playing field among exporters.

  • (Reuters, Moscow, 30 November 2021) Russian gas producer Novatek (NVTK.MM) said on Tuesday its Arctic LNG 2 plant has signed loan agreements with foreign and Russian banks worth 9.5 billion euros ($10.8 billion), securing necessary external financing for the project. Earlier this year, Novatek shareholders approved external financing of $11 billion for the $21 billion Arctic project, which is expected to start production of liquefied natural gas in 2023. Novatek has had difficulty in securing funds from Europe, wary of political standoff with Russia as well as calls against tapping hydrocarbons in the Arctic amid efforts to tackle climate change. Chinese financial institutions, including the China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China, signed credit facility agreements totalling 2.5 billion eurosfor up to 15 years. Financial institutions from the OECD member countries signed credit facility agreements totaling up to 2.5 billion euro. This includes the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and other lenders insured by export credit agencies. Sources told Reuters earlier this month that Italy's SACE may insure a loan of around 500 million euros for Arctic LNG 2.

  • (Reuters, Moscow, 8 December 2021)  Russia's Amur Gas Chemical Complex (Amur GCC) has secured $9.1 billion in loans maturing in 2035, Sibur, which co-owns the plant with China's Sinopec, said in a statement on Wednesday. International banks will provide $2.6 billion for the Amur GCC with coverage from export credit agencies SACE of Italy and Germany's Euler Hermes, Sibur said, while Chinese and Russian banks will issue the remaining $6.5 billion.

  • (Global Trade Review, London, 15 December 2021) China’s commitments to financing in Africa are shifting away from giant infrastructure developments and towards developing stronger trade flows and commercial investments, analysts say. At the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (Focac) in late November, the country unveiled an action plan that included around US$40bn of commitments in the form of trade finance, commercial investments and a share of China’s Special Drawing Rights (SDR). Although a hefty headline figure, it is significantly less than the US$60bn promised at the two most recent forums in 2015 and 2018. It also includes little in the way of concessional loans, which has been China’s primary tool for financing a swathe of infrastructure across the continent, including railways, airports, roads and energy projects. GTR reported in September that European export credit agencies and commercial lenders have been approached by Chinese contractors working on projects in Africa who have been unable to secure financing from Chinese sources. The Atlantic Monthly calls this "China's real 'debt trap' threat, claiming it "is part of a deepening debt crisis affecting countries that have borrowed hundreds of billions of dollars from China for infrastructure development... It’s not just low-income countries that are hard-pressed to repay China. Middle-income nations also are seeking to renegotiate their Chinese debts as the pandemic-induced global economic slowdown nears the two-year mark. But Chinese lenders are digging in their heels as governments ask for relief, especially with countries that don’t receive media attention. And those countries are feeling the pain. For example, Suriname’s inability to access IMF funds means less money for social programs at a time when the pandemic has increased demand for health care and other programs focused on the poor.

  • (Global Trade Review, London, 13 December 2021) [Barclays sponsored GTR article] Having been profoundly shaken by the combined impact of the pandemic and Brexit, UK exporters continue to face significant trade challenges. As companies rethink and recalibrate their export strategies and supply chains, there is an increased focus on ESG performance and an opportunity to build back not only better, but cleaner and greener. In mid-November, GTR and Barclays gathered top trade experts for a virtual roundtable discussion to address the crucial issues impacting the export and export finance market, the route to export recovery and growth in a more sustainable environment, and the role of the financial sector in keeping trade flowing.

  • (Reuters, Washington, 10 December 2021) The Biden administration has ordered U.S. government agencies to immediately stop financing new carbon-intensive fossil fuel projects overseas and prioritize global collaborations to deploy clean energy technology, according to U.S. diplomatic cables seen by Reuters. However, "This policy is full of exemptions and loopholes that lack clarity, and could render these restrictions on fossil fuel financing completely meaningless," said Kate DeAngelis, a climate finance expert at Friends of the Earth. FOEUS notees that while the policy states that “infrastructure directly related to the production, transportation, or use of fossil fuels, including oil and natural gas, are considered ‘carbon-intensive international energy engagements,’” it then defines “carbon-intensive” using metrics (i.e., kWh) that appear to only apply to electrical generation (i.e., power plants), not production, transportation, or mid-stream like LNG.

  • (Epoch Times, Washington, 22 December 2021) Lithuania's regional and economic stability is facing challenges from the Chinese regime for allowing self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing claims as a runaway province, to open a de facto embassy in its capital Vilnius. In response, China recalled its ambassador in August before downgrading the diplomatic relations and expelled Lithuania’s top representative to China in November. Beijing has imposed a trade embargo over Lithuanian exports and imports, and has threatened multinationals to sever ties with Lithuania or face being shut out of the Chinese market. Chinese customs authorities have refused to import or clear goods from the Baltic nation. The US is supporting Lithuania in this dispute. [It is interesting to note that it was the right-wing Falun Gong owned Epoch Times which flagged the EXIM approval of a $600 million export credit agreement with Lithuania on Nov. 24, in a bid to boost economic cooperation between the two nations and withstand increased pressure from the Chinese regime.]

  • (Global Trade Review, London, 8 December 2021) Danish export credit agency EKF has signed its largest ever export loan for the construction of a high-speed railway project in Turkey. The agency is lending €576mn to the Turkish finance ministry for the project. The loan is classified as green because the electric railway is categorised as sustainable under the EU’s sustainable financing taxonomy. The total value of the financing is €1.1bn, which includes contributions from Swedish public finance and export credit bodies EKN and SEK. Standard Chartered and several other commercial lenders are also involved in the deal, but their exact roles have not yet been disclosed.

  • (Market Screener, Annecy, 2 December 2021) General Electric announced that the Dogger Bank Wind Farm, between 130km and 190km off the north-east coast of England in the North Sea, reached financial close on debt financing for phase C, the third 1.2 GW phase. Upon completion, Dogger Bank is expected to be the world's largest offshore wind farm with the total number of Haliade-X units to be installed at Dogger Bank reaching 277.  GE Energy Financial Services ("GE EFS") partnered with the co-sponsors to support insurance cover from Bpifrance, which insured a portion of the ECA debt financing. Separate debt facilities structured by the co-sponsors are supported by EKN, the Swedish export credit agency and Export Finance Norway (Eksfin), the Norwegian export credit agency. Dogger Bank C will connect to the grid at Lackenby England.