An export credit agency (known in trade finance as ECA) or Investment Insurance Agency, is a private or quasi-governmental institution that act as an intermediary between national governments and exporters to issue export financing. The financing can take the form of credits (financial support) or credit insurance and guarantees (pure cover) or both, depending on the mandate the ECA has been given by its government. ECAs can also offer credit or cover on their own account. This does not differ from normal banking activities. Some agencies are government-sponsored, others private, and others a bit of both.
ECAs currently finance or underwrite about US$430 billion of business activity abroad - about US$55 billion of which goes towards project finance in developing countries - and provide US$14 billion of insurance for new foreign direct investment, dwarfing all other official sources combined (such as the World Bank and Regional Development Banks, bilateral and multilateral aid, etc.). As a result of the claims against developing countries that have resulted from ECA transactions, ECAs hold over 25% of these developing countries' US$2.2 trillion debt. These data are unreliable in the absence of source, definition, or date.
Export credit agencies use three methods to provide funds to an importing entity:
- Direct lending This is the simplest structure whereby the loan is conditioned upon the purchase of goods or services from businesses in the organizing country.
- Financial intermediary loans Here, the export import bank lends funds to a financial intermediary, such as a commercial bank, that in turn loans the funds to the importing entity.
- Interest rate equalization Under an interest rate equalization, a commercial lender provides a loan to the importing entity at below market interest rates, and in turn receives compensation from the export import bank for the difference between the below-market rate and the commercial rate.
Officially supported export credits
Credits may be short term (up to two years), medium term (two to five years) or long term (five to ten years). They are usually supplier's credits, extended to the exporter, but they may be buyer's credits, extended to the importer. The risk on these credits, as well as on guarantees and insurance, is borne by the sponsoring government. ECAs limit this risk by being "closed" on risky countries, meaning that they do not accept any risk on these countries. In addition, a committee of government and ECA officials will review large and otherwise riskier than normal transactions.
Tied aid credits
Officially supported export credit may be connected to official development assistance (ODA) in two ways. First, they may be mixed with ODA, while still financing the same project (mixed credit). As the export credit is tied to purchases in the issuing country, the whole package qualifies as a tied aid credit, even if the ODA part is untied aid. Second, tied aid credits are not very different from export credits, except in interest, grace period (the time when there is no repayment of the principal) and terms of repayment. Such credits are separated from export credit by an OECD requirement that they have a minimum degree of "softness". "Softness" is measured by a formula that compares the present value of the credit with the present value of the same amount at standardized "commercial" terms. This difference is expressed as a percentage of the credit and called "concessionality level". Thus a grant has a concessionality level of 100%, a commercial credit scores zero per cent. The higher the concessionality level, the more the tied aid credit looks like ODA, the lower, the more it looks like an export credit.
Partially untied credits consist of a tied and an untied part. The latter is usually intended to finance "local cost", investment cost to be made in the importing country. This part may also be in a local currency. Partially untied aid is treated as tied aid.
Both officially supported export credits and tied aid credit and grants are extended on terms controlled by governments. Therefore, there is a constant temptation to use these financial instruments to subsidize commercial exports in order to win a temporary advantage on an export market or to counterbalance such an action from another government (matching). However, the end result of such action is negative for importing countries (usually developing countries), who are rendered unable to choose the best combination of quality and price but consider financing first. It is also negative for tax payers, who foot the bill. It may only to the benefit of exporters whose government have the deepest pockets and the greatest willingness to subsidize, even though the macro-economic outcome of the subsidy is doubtful. In the past, there have been big, government-sheltered companies that were kept alive to a very large extent by export credits and tied aid credits. To avoid these traps, it was considered useful to standardize export credit conditions and to monitor matching and tied aid credits.
This situation has led first to an informal agreement in 1976 among some OECD countries, known as "The Consensus". This was succeeded in 1978 by a gentlemen's agreement facilitated by the OECD's now defunct Trade Directorate, which established a Working Party on Officially Supported Export Credits. This gentleman's agreement, officially known as the Arrangement on Guidelines for Officially Supported Export Credits, is known as "The Arrangement". Although negotiations are facilitated by the OECD, not all OECD member countries are participants ad membership is possible for non-OECD countries.
Since 1999, country risk categories have been harmonized by the Arrangement and minimum premium rates have been allocated to the various risk categories. This is intended to ensure that competition takes place via pricing and the quality of the goods exported, and not in terms of how much support a state provides for its exporters. The Arrangement does not extend to exports of agricultural commodities or military equipment. A recent decision at the World Trade Organization (WTO) indicates that the use of officially supported export credits in agriculture is bound by WTO members' commitments with respect to subsidised agricultural exports (see the WTO Appellate Body decision on the Brazil-US cotton case as it relates to the General Sales Manager (GSM) 102 and 103 programs and other US agricultural export credits).
The Berne Union, or officially, the International Union of Credit & Investment Insurers, is an international organisation for the export credit and investment insurance industry. The Berne Union and Prague Club combined have more than 70 member companies spanning the globe.
At EU level, the European Commission, in particular DG Trade, plays a role in the harmonization of Export Credit Agencies and the co-ordination of policy statements and negotiation positions. This is based on council decisions 73/391/EEC and 76/641/EEC. These decisions provide for prior consultations among member states on long term export credits. Member states may ask each other if they are considering to finance a specific transaction with official export credit support. EU members may not subsidize intra-EU export credits.
Polemic on ECAs
Observers argue for and against export credits. Some observers view them as nothing more than export subsidies by a different name. Others argue that export credits may further the burden of debt that poor countries already suffer. The activities of ECAs are considered by some to be a type of welfare for large corporations. ECAs are also criticised for insuring companies against political actions which aim to protect workers' rights, other human rights or the natural environment in the countries where the investment is being made. Advocates of ECAs have assertions of their own, such as the following: export credits allow impoverished importers to purchase needed goods that would otherwise be unaffordable; export credits are components of a broader strategy of trade policies; and government involvement can achieve results that the private sector cannot, such as applying greater pressure on a recalcitrant borrower. These arguments for and against export credits are not new, having been studied at length in academic literature (for a good general discussion, see Baron, David P. The Export-Import Bank: An Economic Analysis. Academic Press. 1983.; or Eaton, Jonathan. Credit Policy and International Competition. Strategic Trade Policy and the New International Economics, ed. Paul Krugman. MIT Press, Cambridge Mass. 1988.). Of course, these arguments also spill over into broader literature and it is certainly important not to confuse the agency that applies the export credits, the ECA, with the actual policy of providing guarantees or direct lending support to facilitate exports. For example, some accuse the Canadian Wheat Board of providing export credits (for a strident representation of this argument, see Goodloe, Carol. The Canadian Wheat Board: Government Guarantees and Hidden Subsidies? The Estey Centre Journal of International Law and Trade Policy, Vol 5 No 2, p 102-122. 2004.).
ECAs are increasingly requiring member countries to undertake anti-corruption due diligence when applying for export credit. This is due to the increased international enforcement of anti-bribery laws.
ECAs play a pivotal role of getting new projects financed so the economy can be turned around from this recession. Most commercial banks are closed for new business and project funding is a scarce resource. The favourable Commercial Interest Reference Rate (CIRR is the reference rate laid down by the OECD for its member states as the minimum interest rate for officially supported financing of exports) is helping to keep your cost of capital down. But even more important is it that ECAs enables start ups to get financing, which again implies that projects are being realized.
List of export credit agencies
Multilateral export credit agencies
Multilateral Development Banks - (MDBs)
Africa - African Development Bank AfdB
Africa - African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank)
- Andean Countries - Corporaci n Andina de Fomento ("CAF")
- Arab League - Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development
Asia - Asian Development Bank
- Central and Eastern Europe - European Bank for Reconstruction and Development ("EBRD")
- Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit ("ICIEC") (part of the Islamic Development Bank)
- Islamic Development Bank (IsDB)
- Latin America - Inter-American Development Bank ("IADB")
- Nordic Investment Bank ("NIB")
- Nordic Development Fund ("NDF")
OPEC Fund for International Development ("OFfID")
- Multilateral Financial Institutions
- Central and Eastern Europe - European Union (EU)
- Central and Eastern Europe - European Investment Bank ("EIB")
- Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (part of World Bank)
- Sub-Regional Banks
- - Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID)
- - Austrian Development Agency (ADA)
- - Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
- - Danish Development Agency (DANIDA)
- - Department for International Development Cooperation
- Agence Fran aise de D veloppement (AfD)
- - Deutsche Gesellschaft f r Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH
- - Kreditanstalt f r Wiederaufbau (KFW)
- - Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
- - Netherlands Development Cooperation
- - New Zealand Official Development Assistance (NZODA)
- - Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation
- - Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA)
- - U.K Department for International Development Cooperation (DFID)
- - U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
Official export credit agencies by country
- - Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC)
- - Oesterreichische Kontrollbank AG (OeKB)
- - Office national du Ducroire/Nationale Delcrederedienst (ONDD)
- - Export Development Canada (EDC)
- - [China Export Credit Insurance Corporation]
- Hong Kong - Hong Kong Export Credit Insurance Corporation
- - Banco de Comercio Exterior de Colombia (Banc ldex)
- - Export Guarantee and Insurance Corporation (EGAP), Czech Export Bank
- - Eksport Kredit Fonden (EKF)
- - Kredex Krediidikindlustus (EST)
- - EFinnvera Oyj, Finnish Export Credit Ltd (FEC)
- - Compagnie Fran aise d'Assurance pour le Commerce Ext rieur (COFACE), Direction des Relations Economiques Ext rieures (Minist re de l'Economie) (DREE)
- - Euler Hermes Kreditversicherungs-AG, AuslandsGesch ftsAbsicherung der Bundesrepublik Deutschland
- - Export Credit Insurance Organisation (ECIO)
- - Hungarian Export Credit Insurance Ltd (MEHIB), Hungarian Export-Import Bank
- - Export-Import Bank of India, Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India (ECG)
- - Israel Foreign Trade Risks Insurance Corporation, (ASHRA)
- - SACE S.p.A. Servizi Assicurativi del Commercio Estero
- - Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), Nippon Export and Investment Insurance (NEXI)
- - Jordan Loan Guarantee Cooperation (JLGC), Loan Guarantee & Export Credit Guarantee
- - Korea Trade Insurance Corporation (K-SURE), The Export-Import Bank of Korea (KEXIM)
- - Office du Ducroire (ODD)
- - Banco Nacional de Comercio Exterior (Bancomext)
- - Atradius
- - Export Credit Office (ECO)
- - The Norwegian Guarantee Institute for Export Credits (GIEK)
- - Korporacja Ubezpiecz n Kredyt w Eksportowych (KUKE)
- - Companhia de Seguro de Cr ditos
- - Export-Import Bank of the Slovak Republic (Eximbank SR)
- - Compa a Espa ola de Seguros de Cr dito a la Exportaci n, Secretar a de Estado de Comercio(Ministerio de Econom a)
- - Exportkreditn mnden (EKN)
- - Swiss Export Risk Insurance (SERV)
- - Export Credit Bank of Turkey (T rk Eximbank)
- - Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD)
- - Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank)
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