Medium and long-term export credit activity nosedived among OECD countries in 2016, led by a massive decline in activity at US Exim.
With notable exceptions (including France, Italy, Sweden and the UK) export credit volumes declined in many major markets.
Most obviously, there was a 97% fall in support from US Exim, Japanese agency support dropped by 63%, backing from Euler Hermes in Germany was down 39%, while the numerous Korean agencies saw their export credit support fall by 23%.
The Competitiveness Report by US Exim outlines the “sluggish global export growth of around 2% last year”, along with “massive market liquidity” around the world, which led to historic levels of activity from specialist financiers, such as private export credit insurers.
However, the fact that US Exim spent much of the year in liquidation, and has yet to be revived under the US President Donald Trump (although he has voiced unexpected support for the export credit agency [ECA]) are the primary reasons for its lack of action. These issues are not alluded to in the report, which does not mention the US president once in 68 pages.
What it does mention is the extraordinary dominance of China’s ECAs on the export credit market. China’s agency, led by Cexim, provided US$50bn-worth of medium and long-term support in 2016, which is more than the rest of the world combined.
Huge loans were doled out to projects around Africa and Central Asia, many as part of the One Belt One Road (OBOR) infrastructure initiative. Cexim’s lending terms are often more generous than other ECAs, often coming with multi-decade tenors.
UK Export Finance (UKEF) is the ECA to have shown the biggest increase in volume of medium and long-term support in 2016. Its support grew by a massive 198% last year, with the ECA experiencing large amounts of change in personnel and structure. With the UK’s Brexit vote, the agency has been increasingly proactive in supporting exports.