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Abstract

This article introduces export credit agencies (ECAs) as highly influential actors in international trade and global energy development. In the energy sector, official export financing stimulates international trade in energy-related technologies and promotes energy development in countries associated with high political risk. Adverse competition between ECAs has produced a demand among governments and other actors for international governance. The article explores the origins and effectiveness of international rules, and identifies three challenges to the current OECD-centred governance arrangements. First, the growing influence of ECAs from non-OECD countries is challenging the legitimacy and effectiveness of the OECD as an institutional venue for negotiating rules. Second, there are growing tensions between the national economic objectives that underpin the mandates and operations of ECAs, and their global implications. And third, as official export financing overwhelmingly benefits large-scale, carbon-intensive energy development, a number of ECAs have been criticized for undermining efforts to place developing countries on a more sustainable energy path. The article is pessimistic about the prospect of fundamental reform, as aligning official export financing with global policy objectives may require governments to enact fundamental changes to the mandates and structures of ECAs that compromise their effectiveness as instruments of national export promotion.

Policy Implications

  •  The growing influence of non-OECD countries in the international market for official export financing will generate new demands for international rules from governments and other stakeholders.
  •  Given the global impacts of ECAs, it will become increasingly difficult for governments to insulate themselves from pressures to align their mandates and activities with broader sustainable development objectives.
  •  The role of official export financing in the energy sector demonstrates the extent to which mitigating global climate change requires a better integration of international trade and climate policy.
  •  As more and more countries establish ECAs, it will become increasingly difficult to reach a consensus on international rules.
  •  When benefiting exports related to oil, gas and coal-based power generation, official export financing reduces the capital costs of large-scale fossil fuel-based energy development in developing countries.
  •  The ‘greening’ of official export financing in the energy sector would be accelerated by fiscal and regulatory policies in both exporting and importing countries that are favourable to clean technology and renewable energy companies.