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The Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) in Australia uses direct marketing, publications, seminars, and interactions with other government organisations responsible for assisting SMEs as well as the banking community. HERMES in Germany has advisory services focused on SMEs, including an SME telephone hotline providing personal support regarding export credit services. Sweden's Exportkreditnamnden (EKN) and the US Eximbank give special presentations on how their institutions can help small exporters.

Both MEHIB and the Eximbank of Hungary take part in seminars organised by commercial banks or bodies like the Hungarian Investment and Trade Development agency in order to reach smaller firms. In Denmark, the Eksport Kredit Fonden (EKF) assists the Danish Federation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises in increasing awareness about export credits. The United Kingdom has initiated "SME road shows" or a series of regional seminars to enable an exchange of information between the ECGD and potential small customers. These are generally held in conjunction with the regional Chambers of Commerce, trade promotion teams and bank representatives. In addition, information is e-mailed to smaller exporters selected through government data bases.

Streamlining processes for small exporters

Many export credit agencies have introduced streamlined or simplified application and review procedures for export credit services for SMEs. Small exporters, which are usually less experienced and require more hand-holding to guide them through an export credit system, generally have different needs than larger companies.

The United Kingdom has introduced a fast track system for processing applications for support from exporters with smaller contracts under the Export Insurance Policy and the Supplier Credit Financing facility. In this way, smaller exporters benefit from streamlined procedures where the buyer is known to have a good track record. Canada has implemented a Special Small Business Accounts Receivable Insurance policy which includes easy application and reduced administration and which is used by over half of all short-term insurance customers. Emerging Exporter underwriting is also available in Canada to small exporters through a call centre and applications can be faxed or sent through the EDC website.

In Australia, insurance proposals are processed in a more automated fashion, pricing is simpler and a more 'standard' approach is taken with regard to smaller firms. Germany, Hungary and Turkey are taking the needs of SME exporters into account through simplification of application procedures, reduced paperwork and simpler language. Italy does not charge fees from small firms which apply for its export credit services. More countries are adopting on-line services. Among the countries which provide SME support services or applications over the Internet are Canada and Germany. The United Kingdom has developed a special website page providing Help for Smaller Exporters. The Danish EKF is developing an interactive website to help new exporters, mainly SMEs, orient themselves in the credit insurance market. France provides on-line access for demand for insurance coverage.

Providing export credits to small exporters

The share and type of export credits extended to SME exporters varies across OECD countries, largely due to differing rules. Broadly defined, an export credit is an insurance, guarantee or financing arrangement which enables a foreign buyer of exported goods and/or services to defer payment over a period of time (OECD, 2001b). Export credits are generally divided into short-term (usually under two years), medium-term (usually two to five years) and long-term (usually over five years). Export credits may take the form of supplier credits, extended by the exporter, or buyer credits, where the exporter's bank or other financial institution lends to the buyer (or their bank). Official support through export


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