Export credit agency

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An export credit agency (known in trade finance as an ECA) or investment insurance agency [1] is a private or quasi-governmental institution that acts 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 combination of the two.

Trade finance financing for trade

Trade finance signifies financing for trade, and it concerns both domestic and international trade transactions. A trade transaction requires a seller of goods and services as well as a buyer. Various intermediaries such as banks and financial institutions can facilitate these transactions by financing the trade.

Insurance equitable transfer of the risk of a loss, from one entity to another in exchange for payment

Insurance is a means of protection from financial loss. It is a form of risk management, primarily used to hedge against the risk of a contingent or uncertain loss.

Guarantee is a legal term more comprehensive and of higher import than either warranty or "security". It most commonly designates a private transaction by means of which one person, to obtain some trust, confidence or credit for another, engages to be answerable for him. It may also designate a treaty through which claims, rights or possessions are secured. It is to be differentiated from the colloquial "personal guarantee" in that a Guarantee is a legal concept which produces an economic effect. A personal guarantee by contrast is often used to refer to a promise made by an individual which is supported by, or assured through, the word of the individual. In the same way, a guarantee produces a legal effect wherein one party affirms the promise of another by promising to themselves pay if default occurs.

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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.[ citation needed ]

Export credit agencies use three methods to provide funds to an importing entity:

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.

Official development assistance (ODA) is a term coined by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to measure aid. The DAC first used the term in 1969. It is widely used as an indicator of international aid flow. It includes some loans.

Tied aid

Tied aid is foreign aid that must be spent in the country providing the aid or in a group of selected countries. A developed country will provide a bilateral loan or grant to a developing country, but mandate that the money be spent on goods or services produced in the selected country. From this it follows that untied aid has no geographical limitations.

In economics and finance, present value (PV), also known as present discounted value, is the value of an expected income stream determined as of the date of valuation. The present value is always less than or equal to the future value because money has interest-earning potential, a characteristic referred to as the time value of money, except during times of negative interest rates, when the present value will be more than the future value. Time value can be described with the simplified phrase, "A dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow". Here, 'worth more' means that its value is greater. A dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow because the dollar can be invested and earn a day's worth of interest, making the total accumulate to a value more than a dollar by tomorrow. Interest can be compared to rent. Just as rent is paid to a landlord by a tenant, without the ownership of the asset being transferred, interest is paid to a lender by a borrower who gains access to the money for a time before paying it back. By letting the borrower have access to the money, the lender has sacrificed the exchange value of this money, and is compensated for it in the form of interest. The initial amount of the borrowed funds is less than the total amount of money paid to the lender.

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.

International regulation

Both officially supported export credits and tied aid credit and grants are extended on terms bound by the OECD's arrangement on official export credits. The Arrangement is a "Gentlemen's Agreement" amongst its Participants who represent most OECD Member Governments. The Arrangement sets forth the most generous export credit terms and conditions that may be supported by its Participants. The main purpose of Arrangement is to provide a framework for the orderly use of officially supported export credits. In practice, this means providing for a level playing field (whereby competition is based on the price and quality of the exported goods and not the financial terms provided) and working to eliminate subsidies and trade distortions related to officially supported export credits. [2]

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. [3] 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, summarized here).

World Trade Organization organization that intends to supervise and liberalize international trade

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an intergovernmental organization that is concerned with the regulation of international trade between nations. The WTO officially commenced on 1 January 1995 under the Marrakesh Agreement, signed by 124 nations on 15 April 1994, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which commenced in 1948. It is the largest international economic organization in the world.

At EU level, the European Commission, in particular the Directorate General for 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. The application of the OECD arrangement in providing export credit is mandatory in EU countries under Art. 1 of Regulation (EU) No. 1233/2011. [4]

Council of the European Union institution of the European Union

The Council of the European Union, referred to in the treaties and other official documents simply as the Council is the third of the seven Institutions of the European Union (EU) as listed in the Treaty on European Union. It is part of the essentially bicameral EU legislature and represents the executive governments of the EU's member states. It is based in the Europa building in Brussels.

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. Its membership includes both commercial and state-sponsored insurers.

Support and Criticism

Some observers view state-sponsored export credits as nothing more than export subsidies by a different name. As such, the activities of ECAs are considered by some to be a type of corporate welfare. [5] Others argue that ECAs create debt in poor countries motivated not by development goals but in order to support rich countries' industry. [6] In addition, ECAs may soak up aid money as debt relief programs predominantly relieve poor countries from debt owed to donor countries' ECAs. [7] 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. [8]

Advocates of ECAs assert that 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.

List of export credit agencies

Export credit agencies

Official export credit agencies by country

See also

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Export Development Canada Canadas export credit agency

Export Development Canada is Canada's export credit agency and a state-owned enterprise wholly owned by the Government of Canada. Its mandate is to support and develop trade between Canada and other countries and Canada's competitiveness in the international market-place. EDC products and services include trade credit insurance, export financing for Canadian companies and for their foreign customers, bonding solutions, international market expertise, as well as information on opportunities in international markets.

Trade credit insurance, business credit insurance, export credit insurance, or credit insurance is an insurance policy and a risk management product offered by private insurance companies and governmental export credit agencies to business entities wishing to protect their accounts receivable from loss due to credit risks such as protracted default, insolvency or bankruptcy. This insurance product is a type of property and casualty insurance, and should not be confused with such products as credit life or credit disability insurance, which individuals obtain to protect against the risk of loss of income needed to pay debts. Trade credit insurance can include a component of political risk insurance which is offered by the same insurers to insure the risk of non-payment by foreign buyers due to currency issues, political unrest, expropriation etc.

The Berne Union, also known as The International Union of Credit & Investment Insurers, is an international non-profit association and community for the global export credit and investment insurance industry.

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A Hermes cover is an export credit guarantee (ECG) by the German Federal Government.

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Export Insurance Agency of Russia (EXIAR) is a Russian government agency, which was established on October 13, 2011 as the successor for the Russian Export-Import Insurance Company, that was existed since April 23, 1996.

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