Governments provide official export credits through Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) in support of national exporters competing for overseas sales. ECAs provide credits to foreign buyers either directly or via private financial institutions benefiting from their insurance or guarantee cover. ECAs can be government institutions or private companies operating on behalf of the government.
The role of the OECD in this area first and foremost involves the maintenance and development of disciplines (the Export Credit Arrangement) stipulating the most generous financial terms and conditions for officially supported export credits. The OECD also provides a forum for discussion and coordination of national export credit policies.
The main purpose of the Arrangement is to provide a framework for the orderly use of officially supported export credits. In practice, this means providing for a level playing field (whereby exporters compete on the basis of the price and quality of their products rather than the financial terms provided) and reducing subsidies and trade distortions related to officially supported export credits.
The OECD's work related to official export credit policies and practices takes place under the auspices of two bodies with separate, albeit similar, memberships. Although the Secretariat provides support to the Working Party on Export Credits and Credit Guarantees (Export Credit Group) as well as the Participants to the Arrangement, the former is an official OECD body whilst the latter is not.