What's New July 2019

What's New!" is a periodic update to keep you informed of the latest on the ECA Watch website. What's New! features a wide range of materials related to the reform of Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) including NGO publications and releases, news articles, commentaries and announcements about the policies and practices of ECAs and ECA-financed projects world-wide.

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  • £7.8bn of UK foreign aid and export credit spent on fossil fuel projects
  • Chinese ECA underwrites US$46 bln Chinese firms' businesses in Africa
  • UAE ECA and Italy partner with Chinese financial institutions to boost trade
  • 'Hidden debts’ reveal risks of China’s lending spree
  • Behind Russia’s growing influence in Africa
  • Federal review of EDC finds inadequate disclosure practices
  • EDC lifts "closed" status on Saudi Arabia-related business
  • EDC claims review clears them of SNC-Lavelin transaction wrongdoing
  • As Brexit Looms, UK Doubles ECA Credit To Nigeria
  • The Poseidon Princples: Will They Affect ECAs?
  • U.S. Senate targets Ex-Im support for Saudi nuclear technology
  • Foreign beer lovers get tanked with EXIM assistance

£7.8bn of UK foreign aid and export credit spent on fossil fuel projects

 (Guardian, London, 23 July 2019) The British government has spent £680m of its foreign aid budget on fossil fuel projects since 2010, according to analysis that highlights the UK’s failure to align diplomatic, trade and aid policies with the goals of the Paris climate agreement. Britain allocated more overseas development cash to oil and gas in the two years after signing the 2015 agreement than it had in the previous five, according to the study commissioned by the Catholic development agency Cafod and carried out by the Overseas Development Institute. From 2010-17 the UK provided £7.8bn in financial support to foreign energy projects through a mixture of overseas development assistance, export credit guarantees and other official funding flows. The report says 60% of this total went on fossil fuels. Most of this came in the form of export credit guarantees by UK Export Finance. An earlier analysis by DeSmog UK, an investigative environmental journalism outlet, found an elevenfold increase in UK Export Finance support for overseas fossil fuel projects last year, including oil and gas operations in Oman, Kuwait and Brazil.


Chinese ECA underwrites US$46 bln Chinese firms' businesses in Africa

(Xinhua, Beijing 2 JJuuly 2019) China Export & Credit Insurance Corporation has underwritten 46.08 billion U.S. dollars worth of insured businesses made by Chinese enterprises in Africa from 2018 to the end May of this year, China Securities Journal reported. Of the total, the insurer offered 26.27 billion U.S. dollars of short-term exports credit insurance and 10.11 billion U.S. dollars of medium-and long-term export credit insurance for exporters, said the paper quoting the latest data from the corporation. The company's insurance for overseas investment totaled 9.7 billion U.S. dollars in the period. During the period, the insurer paid compensation worth of 260 million U.S. dollars for companies in multiple sectors, including railways, roads, power, medicare and education.


UAE ECA and Italy partner with Chinese financial institutions to boost trade

(Islamic Business and Finance, Dubai, 25 July 2019) UAE ECA Etihad Credit Insurance (ECI) has signed partnership agreements with China Export and Credit Insurance Corporation (SINOSURE), Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) and Bank of China to boost trade, investments and bilateral exports between the UAE and China. Under the agreement between ECI and SINOSURE, both countries agreed to collaborate in the areas of insurance and co-insurance, commercial information and credit opinion sharing as well as Shari’ah-compliant solutions, trade promotions and SME programmes. According to the Ministry of Economy, China is the UAE’s main non-oil commodities trade partner accounting for 9.7 per cent of the non-oil bilateral trade in 2018, estimated at over $43 billion. China and Italy have also agreed to enhance financial market cooperation and promote two-way financial market access with support for a cooperation mechanism between their export credit agencies, leading enterprises and financial institutions to provide tailored financing-insurance solutions for cooperation.


'Hidden debts’ reveal risks of China’s lending spree

(Asia Times, Hong Kong, 23 July 2019) China's US$1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative, along with other foreign funding, has become a magical mystery tour, baffling the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Or, according to critics, a diplomatic car crash waiting to happen. “Compared with China’s dominance in world trade, its expanding role in global finance is poorly documented and understood,” a report released last week by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, noting that "Over the past decades, China has exported record amounts of capital to the rest of the world". Many of these financial flows are not reported to the IMF, the BIS [the Bank for International Settlements] or the World Bank.” China is now the world’s largest creditor. A breakdown of the numbers showed that lending soared to around US$5 trillion by 2018 from roughly $500 billion in 2000, which dwarfs World Bank and IMF credit lines. China is not part of the OECD Export Credit Group, which provides data on long- and short-term trade credit flows. In the past 18 months, the venture has been mired in controversy after being branded a “debt trap” by the US and its key Western allies. The ruling Communist Party has announced plans to expand its anti-corruption campaign to BRI projects. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) had limited involvement in the program but that is starting to change and its Director General for international cooperation has stated “[We aim to] create a network of law enforcement of all these Belt and Road countries”. Asia Times askes "Will this long and winding road finally have flashing warning signs of “debt” and “corruption?” Or will this continue to be a highway to economic hell? BRI nations might want to buckle up for a bumpy ride."


Behind Russia’s growing influence in Africa

(The Independent, Kampala, 8 July 2019) Russia hosted the Annual General Meeting for the African Export Import Bank (Afreximbank) on June 20-22, the second AGM to be held out of Africa since 2012 in China. The Russian Export Center (REC), purchased shares in Afreximbank in 2017 at an undisclosed amount, becoming the bank’s third-largest non-African financial institution. As Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, hosts more than 50 African presidents for the first-ever Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi on Oct. 24, top on the agenda will be how to sustain the economic and political ties between the two trading blocs in the wake of declining oil prices and increasing isolation of the transcontinental nation. Whereas Russia’s presence in Africa had weakened in the 1990s, the country had since then done a great deal of groundwork on joint projects in geology and mining, energy, industry, agriculture, fishing and telecommunications, with total investments now standing at US$20bn. Russia’s economy has been on a standstill for a while, with statistics showing that from 2014 to 2018, its GDP grew at an average of 0.4% per annum, with real disposable incomes declining by 10.7% leaving 19 million of the 145 million Russian population in poverty during the same period. On the other hand, Africa’s GDP has been growing at an average of more than 3%, making it one of the fastest growing regions in the world. Moscow, which had a strong influence in Africa alongside US and China, had frozen its relations with the continent following the collapse of the USSR in 1991. It however remains to be seen how far Russia’s reconnection with the continent will go given that China, India, and especially the United States have intensified their involvement in Africa over the last three decades. Russia’s export values to Africa have nearly doubled over the last five years from US$9.3bn in 2014 to US$17.5bn in 2018 while Russian imports from Africa have stagnated, increasing from merely US$2.8bn to US$2.9bn during the same period. Most of Russia's exports to Africa are medicine, food, forestry products, automotive and mixed fertilizer. Since 2015, according to the Swedish Defence Research Agency, Russia has signed over 20 bilateral military cooperation agreements with African states including; Rwanda, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Guinea. Between 2012 and 2016, Russia had become the largest supplier of arms to Africa, accounting for 35% of arms exports to the region, followed by China (17 %), the United States (9.6%), and France (6.9 %).  Some of Russia’s companies that have made inroads in Africa include; Gazprom, Lukoil, Rostec and Rosatom, with most of their operations in Uganda, Algeria, Angola, Egypt and Nigeria. Egypt has also finalised negotiations with Moscow to build the country’s first nuclear plant, while in Namibia, Moscow is developing one of the world’s largest deposits of platinum group metals.


Federal review of EDC finds inadequate disclosure practices

(Globe and Mail, Toronto, 2 July 2019) A federal review of Export Development Canada has exposed serious shortcomings at the Crown corporation, noting its disclosure practices fall far short of other financial institutions, and that the agency is not legally obligated to consider the environmental or human-rights impact of the financial support it provides to exporters. The findings underscore concerns uncovered in a recent Globe and Mail investigation. The Globe reported that the EDC’s client roster includes companies that have faced allegations concerning corruption, human-rights violations and environmental abuses; the federal agency has demonstrated a tendency to continue supporting such companies after other financial institutions have sanctioned them or cut them loose. Critics have also raised concerns about transparency and federal oversight of the Crown corporation. “Ottawa must impose rules on this Crown corporation to make it transparent and accountable,” Lori Waller, spokesperson for Ottawa-based human rights group Above Ground, said in a statement. “Without strong oversight of its export credit agency, the government risks profiting from harmful and illegal business activities. The law should prohibit EDC from supporting companies involved in corruption, human rights abuse or environmental harm.”


EDC lifts "closed" status on Saudi Arabia-related business

(Reuters, Toronto, 3 July 2019) Canada's export credit agency has lifted a "closed" status on Saudi Arabia-related activity after almost a year of frosty relations between the two countries, citing improved business conditions in the Middle Eastern kingdom. The move by Export Development Canada (EDC) on Tuesday paves the way for the state-owned enterprise to resume support for exporters and investors in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia in August suspended new trade and investment with Canada after it urged Riyadh to release arrested civil rights activists, leading to a trade freeze and expulsion of diplomats. "After monitoring for several months we made the decision that business conditions have improved," Amy Minsky, a senior advisor at EDC, said on Wednesday. She noted that risk remains and there was not necessarily more business in the Saudi Arabian market. The EDC said its position on a country is determined among other things, by the Canadian government's assessment of "political, human rights and corruption risks."


EDC claims review clears them of SNC-Lavelin transaction wrongdoing

(iPolitics, Ottawa 25 July 2019) Canada’s export credit agency says a third-party investigation has cleared the organization of any wrongdoing in providing a political risk insurance policy to SNC-Lavalin in 2011 for a dam project in Angola. EDC said Thursday a review by international law firm Fasken failed to find evidence to support allegations that the corporation turned a blind eye to illegal payments allegedly made by SNC-Lavalin to someone it had retained to help secure a $250-million project repairing the hydroelectric Matala Dam. The allegations were first reported by the CBC earlier this year, citing an unnamed SNC-Lavalin insider. They came as the engineering and construction firm faced intense scrutiny for lobbying the upper-echelons of the Trudeau government to broker a deal that would allow it to avoid a criminal trial for bribery charges relating to its work in Libya.


As Brexit Looms, UK Doubles ECA Credit To Nigeria

(Sahara Reporters, New York, 24 July 2019) With Boris Johnson, who promised to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union without a deal if necessary now the country's prime minister, the United Kingdom Export Finance (UKEF), has increased the export credit finance agreement it signed with Nigeria in February 2018 by £500 million. In a statement made available to SaharaReporters, UKEF said it had also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Nigeria Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) that will "foster greater cooperation in trade through co-financing in the form of guarantees and insurance". In the last ten years, UKEF has enabled companies in Britain to export goods worth £76.5 billion to emerging markets like Nigeria. In 2018 alone, the agency provided guarantees worth £6.8 billion to 181 companies in 72 countries— its best result in 28 years.


The Poseidon Princples: Will They Affect ECAs?

(Hellenic Shipping News, Cyprus, 2 July 2019) The Poseidon Principles launched on the 18 June 2019, with founding signatories including Citi, DNB, Societe Generale, ABN Amro, Amsterdam Trade Bank, Credit Agricole CIB, Danish Ship Finance, Danske Bank, DVB, ING and Nordea. Together they have a combined shipping loan portfolio of c. US$100bn – roughly 20% of the global total. Additional banks are expected to join them in the near future and it is hoped that ship lessors and financial guarantors including export credit agencies will also become signatories to the Poseidon Principles. The Poseidon Principles establish a global framework for assessing and disclosing whether ship finance portfolios align with the International Maritime Organisation‘s (“IMO”) goal of reducing shipping’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2050.


U.S. Senate targets Ex-Im support for Saudi nuclear technology

(Foreign Policy, Washington, 30 July 2019) A bipartisan group of lawmakers is introducing new legislation aimed at restricting the transfer of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, the latest sign of growing congressional backlash to the Trump administration’s close relationship with the wealthy Gulf nation. The bill, put forward by Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, would bar the U.S. Export-Import Bank from financing the transfer of nuclear technology and equipment to Saudi Arabia, absent nuclear cooperation agreements, and adopting restrictive international standards to safeguard against nuclear proliferation. The Export-Import Bank plays a key role in funding the export of U.S. nuclear energy equipment and technology abroad.


Foreign beer lovers get tanked with EXIM assistance

(Craft Brewing Business, Akron, 10 July 2019) Craft breweries are promoting Maine beers in international markets via the world’s largest mobile kegerator a 40-foot refrigerated shipping container which packs in 78 on tap beer tanks and carries local Maine beers to far-away destinations. Its maiden voyage was a trip to Iceland 3 years ago and traveled to Leeds, England last fall. All 4 participating breweries ended up with significant orders for their beer overseas. Traveling as one of many breweries on the Beer Box is one thing, but exporting tens of thousands dollars of beer overseas as an individual brewer can be challenging and exposes the company to risk and financing challenges. EXIM insurance policies allowed peace of mind to these small Maine companies regarding their greatest fear – not getting paid."