On 16 March 2020, Global Witness filed a specific instance against UK Export Finance, the UK’s export credit agency, at the United Kingdom NCP. The complaint concerns the activities of UK Export Finance in providing export credit services worldwide. The complainants allege that UK Export Finance is failing to commit and contribute to the climate targets set by the Paris Agreement, and does not disclose its indirect greenhouse gas emissions, in breach of its responsibilities under the OECD Guidelines. Global Witness is seeking mediation from the NCP to encourage UK Export Finance to commit to disclosing its full emissions footprint, bring its portfolio in line with the Paris Agreement 1.5C goal, and rapidly phase out all of its support for fossil fuels.
Relevant OECD Guidelines
- Chapter III
- Chapter III Paragraph 3 a
- Chapter III Paragraph 3 b
- Chapter III Paragraph 3 c
- Chapter VI
- Chapter VI Paragraph 1 a
- Chapter VI Paragraph 1 b
- Chapter VI Paragraph 1 c
- Chapter VI Paragraph 4
- Chapter VI Paragraph 6 b
- Chapter VI Paragraph 6 c
- Chapter VI Paragraph 6 d
The UK NCP received the complaints on 16 March 2020. As of 27 March 2020, the UK NCP sent the complaint to United Kingdom Export Finance (UKEF) UKEN accepted the invitation to respond to the complaint. In its response, UKEF argued that its activities do not fall under the scope of the OECD Guidelines.
On 9 September 2020, the UK NCP rejected the complaint on grounds that UKEF is not a “multinational enterprise” and thus not covered by the OECD Guidelines, for the following reasons:
- Non-corporate form: Because the ECA “does not have a separate corporate legal personality, but rather exists as a government department having its legal personality as the Secretary of State for International Trade.”
- Activities not strictly commercial: Because the ECA “does not strictly [emphasis added] engage in commercial activity.”
- Primary purpose: Because the ECA’s “primary purpose is to provide financial products that are not otherwise available on the private market.”
OECD Watch disagrees and believes that export credit agencies do engage in and facilitate commercial activities covered by the scope of the OECD Guidelines, and that rejection of complaints against ECAs stymies policy coherence and state leadership in promoting RBC via its own state-affiliated entities, and sets a double-standard for ECAs vis-a-vis other financiers engaged in the same types of activities.
Some NCPs (the Finnish and Korean) have also determined that their ECAs are not covered by the Guidelines, whereas others (the Dutch and Danish) have determined their ECAs are covered by the OECD Guidelines.