New leaders elected at Berne Union AGM

The members of the International Union of Export Credit and Investment Insurers – more commonly known as the Berne Union – met in Merida, Mexico between 29 September and 3 October. Dr Hans Janus of Euler Hermes Kreditversicherungs-AG (Euler Hermes Germany) was appointed as the new President, succeeding Mr Vivian Brown of the UK’s Export Credit Guarantee Department.

Dr Janus joined Euler Hermes Germany in the Political Claims & Rescheduling Department in 1983. He subsequently moved through a variety of management positions leading up to his current appointment on the Board of Management at Euler Hermes in 1994.

“The Berne Union and its member companies,” as Dr Janus points out, ”play an increasingly important role in structured and project finance and in political risk insurance for foreign direct investment. The growing need for export credit and investment insurance to facilitate financing and as risk mitigation instruments is undisputed.”

Mr Topi Vesteri of Finnvera, Finland was elected to take over from Mr Marjan Kramar of SEC, Slovenia in the role of Vice-President. Topi Vesteri had an extensive banking background before being appointed as the Director of Export Credit Guarantees in 1998 and then Deputy Managing Director at Finnvera in 2000.

The discussions at the meeting focussed on high-level professional and technical points including Basel II and the Equator Principles, corruption and bribery prevention, Berne Union values, trade finance and financial crises and reinsurance market prospects for 2004. External guests at the meeting included representatives from IMF, World Bank, EBRD and ADB, and speakers included representatives from Munich Re, Citibank and the US Treasury.

Kimberly Wiehl, the Berne Union’s Secretary-General, commented, “In difficult markets members are finding great value in coming together to discuss the issues. Through the Berne Union, they have a voice that is projected internationally and they are finding the organisation ever more vital as the membership expands, deepening the collective experience and lively exchange.”

New members
During the course of the week-long meeting, Thai Eximbank was accepted as the newest observer member of the Berne Union, while Zurich from the United States, Sovereign from Bermuda and SBCE from Brazil were voted in as full members after their two-year observer period. This brings the total number of Berne Union members to 52.

“Our election to permanent status in the Berne Union underscores Zurich’s strategy of actively seeking partnerships with multilateral organisations,” said Zurich’s Daniel Riordan. “The resources and talents of both the public and private sector are needed to bring creative insurance solutions to businesses seeking growth through exports and foreign direct investment.”

Latest figures show rise in export credit business
The importance of the role that Berne Union Members play in assisting cross-border trade was affirmed with the publication of the latest combined figures. In the period from 1982 to 2002 they supported exports worldwide amounting to US$7,820 billion and supported foreign direct investments of US$154 billion.

Last year Berne Union members supported US$485 billion of exports, up 6% from 2001 and backed US$14 billion of investments, which is down around 10% from 2001. The countries with the largest commitments for medium and long-term business were China, Turkey, Mexico, Iran and Indonesia.

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