What's New July 2020

"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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  • US Exim's role in the Republican/China trade and political war updated
  • SINOSURE maintains steady business growth in H1
  • Danish ECA EKF moves to hide environmental negligence in Armenia updated
  • Mozambique’s ECA backed multi-billion dollar gamble on LNG
  • Serious concerns’ raised over UKEF by Spotlight on Corruption
  • EDC’s role in Canada's oil and gas bailout
  • Ditch Public Financing of Fossil Fuels
  • ECAs and the Aviation Industry: What Does the Future Hold?
  • 80% of Hong Kong Security Law Backers at the U.N. Are Belt and Road Signatories
  • Japan’s plan to curb coal plant lending has major “loopholes” updated
  • HSBC arranges first Green ECA loan in Saudi Arabia
  • Portugal launches plan to boost exports hit by pandemic
  • Finveram warns of 2020 loss due to coronavirus
  • Embraer business jet unit gets $97 mln U.S. EXIM loan guarantee

Embraer business jet unit gets $97 mln U.S. EXIM Bank loan guarantee

(Reuters, Washington, 30 July 2020) The U.S. Export-Import Bank said on Thursday its board of directors approved a $97.2 million working capital loan guarantee for Brazilian aircraft maker Embraer’s U.S.-based business jet subsidiary. The federal export credit agency said the guarantee for the one-year, revolving working capital facility from Apple Bank for Savings would support an estimated 800 U.S. jobs, mainly at Embraer Executive Aircraft’s factory in Melbourne, Florida. EXIM said the loan guarantee also would support supply chain jobs in Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas. Embraer has been struggling to craft a new future since Boeing Co canceled its $4.2 billion takeover of the Brazilian jetmaker’s commercial aircraft business in April. Boeing has traditionally been EXIM’s largest single customer, using the agency to finance jetliner sales to many foreign airlines.


US Exim's role in the Republican/China trade and political war

(TXF News, New York, 16 July 2020) The US administration [and corporate media] has drastically upped the ante in its economic war against China with its actions against Huawei. At the same time, US Exim has been charged to not only promote US exports and jobs but also counter Chinese state financing where necessary. For Exim, which came back from its virtual 7 year moribund state when it was fully reauthorised on 20 December 2019, there is much work to be done to rebuild relationships with overseas markets and actively support US exports and jobs. But one of the additional requirements for US Exim under its new mandate is to directly counter China’s two ECAs – Sinosure and China Exim. Beijing is using its ECAs, along with several other state entities, to expand its economic influence and gain a competitive advantage against the United States, the U.S. Export-Import Bank said in its annual competitiveness report. China’s official medium- and long-term export credit activity from 2015 to 2019 was at least 90 percent of that provided by all G-7 countries, the report found. Anti-China sentiment has grown significantly through this year and the Covid-19 period in particular. As such, the widening of the trade war to unilaterally introduce sanctions on a company such as Huawei drastically broadens the scope of the US economic confrontation with China. But for US Exim, even fully funded, and for that matter other ECAs globally, they still face an uphill struggle in competing against Chinese ECAs which not only have huge financial resources at their disposal, but also a big start in many markets – particularly within Africa - where China Inc has spent years developing its trade and investment foothold. China has not been afraid to fly the China Inc flag by extending itself over longer terms and with cheaper debt. Many other ECAs are part of the OECD Consensus and for certain market activity they [are supposed to] follow specific agreed guidelines. China is not part of this. Some observers have categorised China’s trade and investment activities in Africa as a new form of colonialism.  There never has been, nor will there ever be a true ‘level playing field’. EXIM's new mandate charged it with a goal of reserving not less than 20% of the agency’s total financing authority (ie $27 billion out of a total of $135 billion) “to directly neutralise China’s export subsidies for competing Chinese goods and services."  Republican members of the China Task Force have expressed gratitude for "the Export-Import Bank’s multi-pronged efforts to combat the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCPs) predatory practices that put American workers and companies at a disadvantage."


SINOSURE maintains steady business growth in H1

(Xinhua, Beijing, 19 July 2020) SINOSURE, China's only policy-oriented insurer specializing in export credit insurance reported steady business growth in the first half of this year despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The China Export & Credit Insurance Corporation had served over 126,000 clients, increasing 21.1 percent year on year in the first six months. During the January-June period, the company had underwritten over 324.6 billion U.S. dollars worth of insured businesses. Of the total, the insurer offered about 266.9 billion dollars of short-term export credit insurance and 176.5 billion dollars (about 25.2 billion dollars) of export credit insurance for domestic trade, up 5.2 percent and 20.1 percent year on year, respectively.


Danish ECA EKF moves to hide environmental negligence in Armenia

(Open Democracy, London, 28 July 2020) After a Danish-funded mine caused serious environmental damage in Armenia, the Danish state has been less than forthcoming on failed due diligence, transparency and compensation. As a result of the Danish-funded mine construction, the Teghut mine caused the pollution of local rivers, with damage so severe that local farmers and fruit growers lost their livelihoods. A dam containing liquid waste from the mine still threatens to collapse and bury a nearby village. Now, some seven years after the original loan was approved, Denmark’s business ministry has quietly introduced an extensive duty of confidentiality for EKF employees as part of amending the law governing the export credit agency. Workers at EKF can now be severely punished - including up to two years in prison - if they break this confidentiality. In 2017, EKF withdrew its export guarantee for the project, citing environmental standards, but a 2016 freedom of information request to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs showed that EKF was aware in August 2013 of the risks the mine expansion would pose to the environment, as well as “democratic deficiencies in the Armenian decision-making and approval process” of the mine. The amendments seem to overrule Denmark’s environmental information legislation, in order to benefit EKF’s business activities. EKF and other companies have an obligation under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to avoid harm against people and the environment and, if damage occurs, ensure compensation to those affected. An internal 2019 report by the European Union Delegation to Armenia stated that Lydian International and the US and UK and governments have pressured Armenia over local protests which stopped construction of another controversial gold mining project. EKT is also subject to the OECD's Common Approaches which address the potential environmental and social impacts of ECA supported projects.


Mozambique’s ECA backed multi-billion dollar gamble on LNG

(Climate Change News, London, 10 July 2020) A decade after prospectors struck gas off Cabo Delgado, northern Mozambique, a consortium led by Total is signing contracts worth $16 billion to exploit it. One of the biggest investments in Africa, the project to extract, liquefy and export gas raises the hope of catapulting Mozambique, one of the poorest countries in the world, to middle income status by the mid-2030s. But it is a gamble, coming as the coronavirus pandemic hits gas demand and economic growth worldwide. The bet can only pay off on a dangerously overheated planet. High rollers from around the world are backing France's Total, including would-be climate champions. The UK is reportedly supporting the project through its export credit agency, even as it urges leaders to bring more ambitious climate pledges to the Cop26 summit it hosts next year. ECAs participating in the financing include the US EXIM (US$4.7B), JBIC (US$3B), NEXI, UKEF (US$1.15B), SACE, South Africa's ECIC, Atradius and EXIM Thailand. In addition 19 commercial banks and the African Development Bank (AfDB) have committed support. ECAs typically link lending to domestic benefits - the US’ EXIM Bank provided $4.7 billion, which it said would support 16,700 jobs in the US over five years. The UKEF lending said its financing would provide more than 2,000 jobs in the UK and sustain a number of businesses. Global Witness’ senior climate campaigner Adam McGibbon said the UK government’s support for fossil fuels overseas, while claiming to take action on the environment, “is nothing but climate hypocrisy. "It makes a mockery of the idea of the UK as a climate leader,” said Friends of the Earth. According to The Times UK Prime minister Boris Johnson was reported as being “pretty furious”, adding that business secretary Alok Sharma and foreign secretary Dominic Raab have criticised the UKEF lending. The newspaper cited concerns that UKEF was operating without “proper ministerial oversight”.


Serious concerns’ raised over UKEF by Spotlight on Corruption

(CITY AM, London, 6 July 2020) A report released today by Spotlight on Corruption found that UKEF is supporting sectors prone to corruption as part of its post-Brexit export drive. UKEF gave support worth £4.4bn to 339 companies over the past year. More than half of UKEF’s priority markets rank in the bottom 50 per cent of corruption indices, including infrastructure and defence in countries that are at a high risk for corruption, the report found. The report assesses the lessons from recent corruption scandals involving UKEF backed companies. On July 31st a British government committee launched a fresh inquiry into the activities of UK Export Finance (UKEF), following criticism of the agency’s project choice, target-setting and lack of user-friendliness. Exporters are being asked to contribute their views on UKEF here with a deadline of Friday 25 September.


EDC’s role in Canada's oil and gas bailout

(Above Ground, Ottawa, 22 July 2020) Canada’s oil and gas sector could receive billions of dollars in public financial aid as a result of Ottawa’s COVID-19 economic response package. The new sums are in addition to the billions of dollars in routine loans and other supports that the industry receives annually through federal export bank Export Development Canada (EDC), which has been given a significant role in delivering this new federal aid. Above Ground, Environmental Defence and Oil Change International have submitted a joint brief to the Senate and House of Commons finance committees that are studying the COVID-19 response measures. The submission outlines EDC’s role in Ottawa’s oil and gas bailout and makes recommendations to align the government’s economic support measures with Canada’s climate commitments. The UN has warned of catastrophic consequences if the world, and particularly G20 countries, do not dramatically upscale their decarbonization efforts to achieve a 55% cut in global emissions within the decade. With Canada on track to widely miss its inadequate 2030 emissions target, it is more urgent than ever for Ottawa to impose robust climate conditions on all forms of federal aid. This aid must serve to accelerate, rather than delay, the transition to a low-carbon economy. Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and Chair of The Elders, in a July 29 Globe and Mail article, notes that Canada commits more public financing to support fossil fuels than any G20 country other than China, an average US$10.6-billion of annual support to oil and gas firms via Export Development Canada.


Ditch Public Financing of Fossil Fuels

(Common Dreams, Portland, 6 July 2020) In an open letter to Emmanuel Macron and Rémy Rioux Common Dreams notes that France is embarking on an important diplomatic effort this November, bringing together 450 global development banks that control $2 trillion in public money. The objective? For public funders to declare that their contribution to the economic recovery from COVID-19 will support climate, sustainable development, and biodiversity goals. However, vague commitments to goals already agreed by governments worldwide will not be sufficient to make the “Finance in Common Summit” a success. The world needs concrete action. G20 governments provide over $77 billion in public finance for fossil fuel projects each year. For example, Canada, the ​second-largest financier​ of fossil fuels in the G20 (per capita, it’s the highest), has given government-backed EDC a major role in the COVID-19 response through two major financing programs that ​specifically prioritise the fossil fuel industry, without clarity on a financial ceiling for these programs. And while the UK government is allegedly working on a policy to exclude oil and gas from ECA financing, the Prime Minister’s office last week agreed to put UKEF money into an LNG terminal in Mozambique, spearheaded by France’s Total. This clearly undermines the UK’s efforts to position itself as a climate leader in the lead up to COP26.


ECAs and the Aviation Industry: What Does the Future Hold?

(JSUPRA, Sausalito, 16 July 2020) The use of Export Credit Agency (ECA) financing in the aviation industry has ebbed and flowed over the years, and it is often during turbulent times that it has proved to be most popular. Given the current COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented downturn experienced by the aviation industry, it is very likely that there will be an increase in the use of ECA financing in the near future. A typical ECA financing structure for the purchase of an aircraft will involve an 85% loan from a syndicate of ECA-supported banks, and such loans will be guaranteed by one or more ECAs. The unfinanced portion of the aircraft's cost will usually be an equity contribution (and where made by way of loan, fully subordinated to the ECA loan). ECA activity tends to be countercyclical: During economic downturns when banks and other lending institutions are reluctant to provide finance, ECA activity accelerates. By way of example, between 2009 and 2012, EXIM helped finance roughly 30 percent of all Boeing's commercial aircraft deliveries. EXIM received its reauthorization in December 2019 after losing it in 2015 — so it was effectively dormant for a 4.5-year period — while ECA activity for Airbus was curtailed as a result of a 2016 UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation relating to irregular payments by Airbus to intermediaries.


80% of Hong Kong Security Law Backers at the U.N. Are Belt and Road Signatories

(National Review, New York, 7 July 2020) At least 43 of the 53 countries supporting China’s new sweeping Hong Kong security law have made deals with the Chinese Communist Party under its global Belt and Road infrastructure project, which aims to pump trillions of dollars, much of it through ECAs, into countries for infrastructure projects to complete a “New Silk Road” by 2049.


Japan’s plan to curb coal plant lending has major “loopholes”

(Global Trade Review, London, 15 July 2020) The Japanese government has tightened its lending criteria for overseas coal-fired power plants, including that it will not provide financial support for any host country that does not have a decarbonisation policy. However, it will continue supporting coal projects if they use highly efficient technologies, and plants that it has already committed to will still go ahead, locking in fossil fuel-based energy for decades. Singapore's business press The Asset notes that Japan generates around 32% of its electricity from coal, with Australia being its main supplier. It is also a major importer from Indonesia, Russia, the United States and Canada. Around 17% of Japanese power generation comes from solar and wind power. Japan has vast requirements for imported coal, oil and gas, and given its lack of resources, does not intend to fully phase out coal. However, local media report that around 100 out of 140 coal-fired facilities will be taken offline between now and 2030. The move marks a partial shift away from Japan’s strong official backing for coal but includes exemptions, leaving some non-governmental organizations sceptical about how much impact the new approach will have.


HSBC arranges first Green ECA loan in Saudi Arabia

(Zawya, Dubai, 26 July 2020) The proceeds of the loan, which is the first Green ECA loan in Saudi Arabia, are being used to purchase buses from Germany for Saudi Arabia's public transport network. The buses will help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution as well as alleviate traffic congestion in the metropolitan Riyadh area through a shift towards public transportation. The loan documentation confirms a commitment to report on positive environmental impacts of the underlying project. In recognition of the use of proceeds and reporting features of the facility, it is compliant with the “Green Loan Principles”, published by the Loan Market Association on 21 March 2018. This loan is supported by Germany's Euler Hermes.


Portugal launches plan to boost exports hit by pandemic

(Reuters, Lisbon, 24 July 2020) Portugal's government has launched a plan aimed at boosting its export sector to alleviate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with a goal of increasing exports to 53% of gross domestic product by 2030 from 44% last year. Last year, exports of goods and services rose 4.3% to a record of 93.5 billion euros ($108.5 billion), representing 44% of GDP. However, the coronavirus pandemic has already led to an abrupt drop in exports, with the country's central bank predicting they will fall around 25% in 2020, mainly because tourism collapsed due to lockdowns and the absence of holidaymakers.


Finveram warns of 2020 loss due to coronavirus

HELSINKI, July 1 (Reuters, Helsinki, 1 July 2020) Finland’s export credit and financing agency Finnvera warned on Wednesday of a loss for 2020, citing expected credit losses due to the spread of the new coronavirus. “The coronavirus pandemic causes exceptional uncertainty in the outlook,” Finnvera said in a statement. In 2018 and 2019 Finnvera reported an annual operating profit of 100 million euros ($112 million).