Exim amendment faces opposition

US Friends of the Earth (FoE) is campaigning against an amendment to the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945 that will prevent the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Exim) from applying its minimum environmental standards to some foreign projects it backs.

According to FoE, the ‘Murkowski Amendment’ could lead to the US Government being forced to assume responsibility for environmentally destructive projects in the developing world.

Before Congress adjourns, Senator Frank Murkowski (Rep-Alaska), will offer an amendment on the Senate floor to a pending appropriations bill for foreign operations, export financing, and related programs for 1999.

The Murkowski Amendment will prevent the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Exim) from applying its minimum environmental standards to any foreign projects it backs in cases when another G-7 country export credit agency is also considering backing the project.

Exim has a mission to provide export financing to US companies to help them compete in developing markets throughout the world. Exim therefore provides large, US taxpayer supported loans and guarantees so that the services and products of US companies can be a part of overseas projects.

The Charter of Exim, revised by Congress in October 1992, requires the Bank to establish environmental review procedures and authorises the Board of Directors to grant or withhold financing support after taking into account environmental effects of proposed transactions.

According to FoE, Exim is frequently asked to finance nuclear power projects, hydroelectric dams, coal-fired power plants, and logging in primary forests. FoE therefore says that Exim environmental standards should be strengthened rather than reduced.

Among FoE’s objections to the Amendment, is the possibility that since other G-7 countries’ export credit agencies have weaker environmental policies than those of the US, some of the worst environmental projects could be backed by these competing agencies.

FoE says that since the Amendment would inhibit Exim Bank’s directors from applying minimum standards in such cases, the US Government could be “compelled to assume responsibility for a project as devastating as the Three Gorges Dam in China, which will destroy forests and farmlands, threaten endangered species, and relocate more than 1.3 million people.”

FoE also claim the Amendment is “a last minute rider attached to a non-germane appropriations bill” and is therefore “an illegitimate circumvention of true Senate deliberation” on the issue.

The group says the Amendment will:

  effectively surrender financial decision making projects to unelected foreign officials;

  undercut sustainable economic policy

  damage US jobs in the environmental technologies sector and

  undermine US efforts to seek international standards

The Amendment is also opposed by The Export Import Bank, the Washington Post, the League of Conservation Voters, World-Wide Fund for Nature, Sierra Club, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Environmental Defense Fund, Friends of the Earth, Center for International Environmental Law, Defenders of Wildlife, Rainforest Action Network, Pacific Environment and Resources Center, Amazon Watch, Natural Resources Defense Council, American Lands, National Tribal Environmental Council, and the National Parks and Conservation Association.

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