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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation: Background and Legislative Issues

Shayerah Ilias
Analyst in International Trade and Finance

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is an independent U.S. government agency that provides political risk insurance, financing (direct loans and loan guarantees), support for private equity investment funds, and other services to promote U.S. direct investment in developing countries and emerging economies that will have a development impact. Congress has authorization, appropriations, oversight, and other legislative responsibilities related to the agency and its activities. Congress does not approve individual OPIC transactions. However, it places statutory requirements on OPIC’s activities, such as those related to economic and environmental impacts of projects. OPIC’s governing legislation is the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (P.L. 87- 195) as amended. 

OPIC’s Programs and Activities 

OPIC’s programs are intended to promote U.S. private investment by mitigating risks, such as political risks (including currency inconvertibility, expropriation, and political violence), for U.S. firms making qualified investments overseas. Its authority to guarantee and insure U.S. investments abroad is backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. U.S. foreign policy objectives guide OPIC activities. OPIC operates in over 150 countries around the world and across a range of economic sectors. Since it began operations in 1971, OPIC has funded, guaranteed, or insured more than $200 billion in investments. In FY2012, OPIC provided $3.6 billion in new market-based financing and political risk insurance to U.S. businesses. 


OPIC’s budget is self-sustaining from its own revenues, which include user fees and interest from U.S. Treasury securities. However, Congress annually sets OPIC’s maximum spending levels for its administrative and program expenses. For FY2012, Congress provided $54.99 million for OPIC’s administrative expenses and authorized a transfer of $25 million from OPIC’s noncredit account to conduct its credit and administration programs. President Obama’s budget proposal for FY2014 requested $71.8 million for OPIC’s administrative expenses and a transfer of $31 million from OPIC’s noncredit account to conduct its programs. 

Reauthorization and Other Issues for Congress 

The 113
th Congress may take up a number of issues related to OPIC, chief of which could be a debate about whether or not to renew OPIC’s authority and, if so, under what terms. The most recent long-term, stand-alone reauthorization of OPIC was through legislation passed in 2003 (P.L. 108-158), which reauthorized OPIC through November 1, 2007. Since then, Congress has extended OPIC’s authority through annual appropriations vehicles for varying periods of up to a year. The FY2013 full-year continuing resolution (P.L. 113-6) extends OPIC’s authority to conduct its credit and insurance programs through FY2013. Congress also may examine the policy debate related to OPIC’s mission, the statutory conditions on OPIC’s support for investments, and the agency’s organizational structure.

Date of Report: September 25, 2013
Number of Pages: 23
Order Number: 98-567
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