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Without congressional action, the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) will close its doors on September 30. A collection of political activists, think tank staffers, and pundits have mounted a campaign against renewing Ex-Im’s charter.
One of these critics’ most common refrains is that Ex-Im is unnecessary because it “only” supported $37.4 billion in U.S. exports last year—or less than 2% of the total.
In fact, Ex-Im’s limited role is a virtue, not a problem to be solved. The vast majority of trade finance is provided by commercial banks, and most of the time that’s the end of the story.
More broadly, though, it’s a mystery why anyone would dismiss $37 billion in exports as insignificant and cede these sales to companies and workers in other countries. Let’s put that number in perspective:
- It’s more than U.S. merchandise exports last year to France ($32 billion), Australia ($26 billion), India ($21.9 billion), or the entire continent of Africa ($35 billion).
- It’s twice as much as all 2013 U.S. merchandise exports to Colombia ($18.6 billion), Italy ($16.5 billion), or Israel ($13.7 billion).
- It’s ten times as much as the Keystone XL pipeline would contribute to U.S. GDP during its construction, a sum estimated at $3.4 billion (as we explain here).
- It’s nearly as much as the sum of all overseas sales last year of the top three U.S. export crops—soybeans ($22.9 billion), wheat ($10.7 billion), and corn ($7.8 billion).
- It’s comparable to the total U.S. exports of such key industrial products as telecommunications equipment ($39.7 billion), semiconductors ($42.6 billion), medical equipment ($34 billion), and pharmaceuticals ($47.9 billion).
- It’s more than the total 2013 merchandise exports of the following states combined: Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming.
- It’s more than the 2013 merchandise exports of Indiana, Kentucky, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Tennessee.
Small business owners, executives at major corporations, and workers in a host of export-dependent industries across the nation are perplexed by the inside-the-beltway campaign against Ex-Im. This campaign will continue when Congress returns to Washington next week.
But by dismissing $37 billion as chump change, the activists calling for Ex-Im to be closed are showing just how out of touch they are with the concerns of Americans across the nation. Those concerns start with the economy and jobs—concerns that closing Ex-Im will only magnify. Congress, are you listening?
UPDATE: Below is an infographic to help you visualize these numbers.