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Overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both the House of Representatives and Senate, as well as the Obama administration, have all said they want to reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im), which has for more than five months been without the congressional authority it needs to help American companies sell their goods and services internationally.
To recap, that’s House, check. Senate, check. White House, check.
And yet, Ex-Im — which for 80 years provided loans and export insurance services to support U.S. exporters — has yet to be reauthorized. That’s because the bill to reform and reauthorize the bank is tied up in conference deliberations over a long-term transportation funding bill, which Congress now hopes to send to the president’s desk by December 4.
Ex-Im’s expiration has had widespread implications for businesses across the country, including firms in places like Michigan. As Gavin Brown, the executive director of the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association, explained in a column published earlier this week on MLive, Ex-Im’s continued absence is “slowing Michigan's economy and forcing layoffs across the nation.” Brown noted that the bank “helps companies - particularly small businesses, which account for nearly 90 percent of Ex-Im transactions - negotiate the often-confusing world of international trade.”
“Shutting down Ex-Im is ‘picking losers’ in the market, and the losers would be businesses here in Michigan that fight every day for overseas sales to help our economy grow,” he added.
New York businesses would also be among the losers, including New York Air Brake, a small business located in upstate Watertown. The North Country Alliance, a business group in the area, recently called on Congress to revive Ex-Im, pointing out that the bank is meant “to promote American exports abroad by filling the financial gap left from lenders in the private sector.” New York Air Brake is one of many small businesses in the area that have come to depend on the bank, according to the group.
“New York Air Brake does nearly $2 million in export value annually,” James Wright, president of the North Country Alliance, wrote in a column published this week in the Watertown Daily Times. “Without the Export-Import Bank, our businesses such as New York Air Brake will face even stiffer odds in terms of growing and ultimately succeeding.”
So will companies in Washington state. Echoing Wright, Suzanne Dale Estey, president of the Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County, noted that: “For more than 80 years, Ex-Im Bank has helped Washington businesses sell their goods abroad by filling gaps in the commercial finance markets and providing financing and insurance products when no private sector alternative is available.”
That kind of support is particularly critical in trade-heavy states like Washington.
“It is a simple fact: Washington’s economy is largely fueled by international trade,” Estey wrote recently in The Seattle Times. “One out of every three jobs in our state is tied to trade. Nearly 13,000 companies from Washington export goods, and in 2014 alone, we sold more than $90 billion in goods around the globe.” A large share of those sales and those jobs hinge on access to Ex-Im resources.
For example, as Estey wrote in the column: “Ellensburg-based Calaway Trading has relied on the Ex-Im Bank to export hay and agricultural commodity products. Oneonta Trading Corporation of Wenatchee, the first exporters of Washington apples, uses the Ex-Im Bank to export its fruit crops. Maple Valley’s Enertechnix utilizes the Ex-Im Bank to facilitate global sales of infrared cameras and gas-temperature-measurement tools used in power plants.”
Every day that passes without reauthorization - and there have been 141 so far - puts more of those sales and more of those companies’ jobs in jeopardy, Estey explained. “With too many Washington and American companies already hurting from the Ex-Im Bank’s lapse, the Senate must act swiftly and decisively in support of reauthorization,” she wrote.
Indeed, any additional delays in reviving Ex-Im would represent political and bureaucratic gamesmanship of the worst variety - the type that attempts to override the clear will of a bipartisan majority in Congress while simultaneously hobbling U.S. businesses and the American economy.