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Reshaping Global Trade

Reshaping Global Trade

The rapid and continuing spread of novel coronavirus (Covid-19) continues to have a significant social impact as well as a profound hit to the global economy.  At the time of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) declaration of a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, the human toll of the disease stood at over 121,000 reported cases and 4,373 deaths spanning 110 countries.

These numbers are increasing, and the social and economic fallout continues.  Stock market declines in major economies reflect growing difficulty doing business and investor uncertainty about the near future.  Stock markets in the US fell nearly 10% on average on March 12 alone, with European stock markets falling well over 10% on the same day.

It is now obvious that no industry or economic sector will be spared by the impact of the virus.  Notable declines in tourism and airline industries are reverberating across supply chains.  Airline losses are estimated to be near $113 billion with governments mulling an economic stimulus for that industry.

Accordingly, trade flows are down, initially owing to the heavy toll of the virus on Chinese and other Asian manufacturing hubs, but also due to slowing consumer confidence and store closures worldwide.  Initial layoffs in the Port of Los Angeles, the first in the US directly owing to the crisis, have begun while both manufacturing and construction industries are trying to postpone difficult measures.

As businesses close, events are cancelled, and employees are told to stay at home in impacted countries, not only has the now pandemic cause a global downturn, but it’s unclear how long it will last and if it will lead to a recession.  Only recently, Goldman Sachs predicted that the US economy would grow only 0.9% in the first quarter and would not grow at all in the second quarter of 2020.

While the length and severity of the pandemic remains unknown, a fair follow-on consideration is how the global economy will prepare itself for the next crisis, and what the long-term impact will be on global trade flows.

The pandemic has shed a light on rising pre-crisis corporate debt.  Concerns for vulnerably indebted companies and sectors and helped to spur central banks around the world to drop interest rates recently.  Additionally, companies with too much supply chain exposure in China are likely to pursue efforts to diversify their supply chains, likely to other Asian locations or to North America.

As of March 3, 2020, Chinese companies had issued over 4,800 force majeure certificates, stating their inability to meet their contractual obligations with clients.

The need for companies to diversify their supply chain exposure and conduct systematic risk analysis is becoming more and more apparent.  Will there be a shift, and will it help US manufacturers and exporters? As always, the interconnectedness of the global economy makes it difficult to gauge.

While US importers may look to diversify away from China, US exporters to China will no doubt suffer.  Already, some analysts think that China will not be able to meet its obligations to increase purchases of US exports.  It’s possible that North American manufacturers, with a new free trade agreement in place, could present a viable competitor to overseas supply chains that look increasingly risky, post-coronavirus.

Risk is the operative word and what this unfolding pandemic has shown is that preparation and risk assessment are crucial for companies in today’s economy.  A major part of this effort should include proper insurance coverage for a wide range of contingencies.

Securitas Global Risk Solutions (“Securitas”) is an expert in helping companies develop trade credit and political risk transfer solutions that protect businesses from buyer non-payment and geo-political risks.  As a specialty independent brokerage, Securitas is focused on developing comprehensive solutions that meet the needs of their client.

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Officially Launched: U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC)

Officially Launched: U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC)

U.S. International Development Finance Corporation Launches

The end-of-the-year appropriations deal struck by Congress and the Trump Administration brought a number of policy changes offering significant opportunities for U.S. export and investment growth overseas.

A new agency, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (called the DFC) began operations on January 2, 2020.  Created by the BUILD Act of 2018, the DFC begins its first year in operation having secured a working $299 million budget for 2020.

Along with the recent seven-year reauthorization of the EXIM Bank, the DFC represents a significant step by the United States in asserting a larger and more capable role in international trade and investment.

What Is the DFC?

The International Development Finance Corporation is a merger of the former Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the Development Credit Authority, formerly housed in the U.S. Agency for International Development, the DFC represents an effort to streamline and bolster American support for private-sector projects in low and lower-to-middle-income countries.

In emerging markets, the role of state-run and multilateral Development Financial Institutions (DFIs) are growing, raising calls for the U.S. to adapt and expand its efforts, while also countering the increasing economic role of China.  While China puts billions into emerging market projects, mainly in infrastructure development, its private-sector development finance role is emerging.  

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The DFC Brings New Changes

The DFC significantly expands the capacity of the U.S. government to support private-sector-led development projects.  The DFC now has a $60 billion investment cap, up from OPIC’s $29 billion cap.  But unlike OPIC, the DFC has a more explicit mandate to focus on low- and middle-income countries (though waivers can be obtained for high and middle-income country projects that meet U.S. national interest, or that specifically focus on poor and vulnerable populations.)

In addition to adopting OPIC’s debt financing and political risk insurance portfolios, the DFC is now able to fund project feasibility studies and technical assistance grants and can lend in local currency to hedge against currency risk.  The most notable change, however, is the DFC’s new capacity to take an equity stake in investments (Congress approved $150 million for 2020) allowing it to play a stronger role in projects chosen for financing.

The DFC will be allowed to take up to 30% position in any project.  The DFC will also adhere to OPIC’s lending standards for social and environmental risk and impact.  While OPIC was formerly tasked to work with companies that were either U.S. based or included a U.S. partner, the DFC has only a mandate to prioritize U.S. companies. 

Concerns raised since the passage of the BUILD Act in 2018 about the amount allocated for DFC equity investments (considered low), accounting rules about the budgetary treatment of equity investments, and a prohibition on the DFC’s use fees to offset its operating expenses were not addressed in the time between the passage of the BUILD Act and launch of the DFC, but are expected to be raised in the future by congressional supporters of the new agency.

For more information about the DFC, see https://www.dfc.gov/

About Securitas Global Risk Solutions

Since 2004, Securitas Global Risk Solutions (“Securitas”) has helped clients across the United States develop solutions to mitigate credit and investment risk across the world.  As a specialty insurance broker focused on developing trade credit and political risk insurance programs, Securitas is focused on developing solutions that meet the needs their clients.  See our Website at https://www.securitasglobal.com/ for more information, or contact us at:

Telephone: 484-595-0100

Fax: 484-582-0111

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Office

900 West Valley Road
Suite 701, Wayne, PA 19087

Call Us

484-595-0100