ECAs fill in SME trade finance support under Covid supply chain disruption

(Fintech & Finance News, Tunbridge Wells, 1 June 2022) Lack of trade finance for SMEs threatened to bring supply chains to a halt in 2020. SMEs play a critical role in trade – responsible for between 20 and 40 per cent of exports from OECD countries. When it comes to affordable trade finance, they face the biggest barriers, with more than half of trade finance requests by SMEs rejected, compared with seven per cent of multinational corporations’, according to the WTO. The OECD, reflecting on the experience of SMEs in the international supply chain during 2020, said short-term trade finance in all its forms (intra-firm financing, inter-firm financing, or more dedicated tools such as letters of credit, advance payment guarantees, performance bonds, and export credit insurance or guarantees) was critically hard to come by – but not because the cost to banks of providing that liquidity had increased. That forced SMEs to fall back on government agencies to stay in business: the Export-Import Bank of the United States, one of the largest providers of short-term government export support, for example, reported a 112 per cent increase in working capital guarantees and a 12 per cent increase in short-term export credit insurance during 2020. According to an OECD survey, 64 per cent of export credit agencies took measures that year to increase working capital support because private liquidity simply wasn’t forthcoming.