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Ex-Im must be reauthorized for small business to succeed

The American people are tired of Washington politicians playing political games when American jobs are at stake.

The economy of the United States remains fragile in the aftermath of the recession — actually contracting in the first quarter of 2014 — and Washington can’t seem to get its act together to fix it.

Putting Americans back to work must be a priority, and this requires policies that promote economic growth. Opening markets abroad through trade agreements is especially important for American small businesses and manufacturers to enhance growth and job creation. That’s why I strongly support reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank before the end of this fiscal year.

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For each added billion dollars in exports, roughly 6,000 American jobs are created. But gaining more customers is one part of the business plan to grow a company. Having more customers means nothing if America’s small businesses cannot obtain the required capital to support their exports in the competitive international markets.

That’s where the Ex-Im Bank comes in. U.S. banks continue to face regulatory and legal prohibitions to lending in many overseas markets. Many regional or community U.S. banks that deal with small- and medium-sized enterprises lack the expertise and capacity to deal with overseas markets and do not believe export lending is a priority for their institution. 

The Ex-Im Bank provides export financing to these small- and medium-size firms where no options are available, and is prohibited from competing with the private sector. In recent years, the bank has provided a quarter of a trillion dollars in export assistance targeted to address specific market failures the private sector does not and will not serve. 

Over the past few years, the bank has supported one billion dollars in exports in the form of direct loans, loan guarantees and export insurance for businesses in my home state of Louisiana. Of the 159 companies that received assistance, 111 were small- and medium-sized enterprises. Failure to reauthorize the bank would put millions of dollars in export contracts at risk, potentially threatening these businesses and Louisiana jobs.

Last month, I met with a coalition of small businesses from South Louisiana to discuss how we can craft policy to support the jobs their firms represent. When I broke the news that the future of the bank was in jeopardy due to a political fight in Washington, I was met with shaking heads and sighs.

Jonathan Mann, the owner of industrial generator manufacturer 360 International Inc. in Duson, La., told me he was worried about losing a multimillion-dollar contract if the bank’s charter is allowed to expire. Failure to reauthorize the bank could severely impact his business and stunt his growth into international markets, causing layoffs for workers at companies like these all across America.

At a time when the American people see Washington as unable to turn around a sputtering economy, we have a golden opportunity to reauthorize this bank that supports thousands of jobs and millions in economic activity. The bank is up for reauthorization and failure to do so would forfeit sales opportunities for American businesses and manufacturers at a time when they should be promoted. 

Failure would amount to unilateral economic disarmament especially for small businesses and manufacturers with the greatest opportunity for growth. The United States cannot achieve significant economic growth without expanding exports. The bank facilitates small-business exports at no cost to the taxpayer and last year sent more than $1 billion back to the Treasury Department.

America’s small businesses and manufacturers are innovators ready to usher in a new wave of growth and opportunity if given access to foreign markets. They are important elements in the global supply and value chains and are competing against firms from countries like China, France, Germany, Brazil and South Korea that provide significantly higher export assistance. It is a dangerous fantasy to believe that these countries and others will stop current practices in the short term.

Congress must reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank to promote American competitiveness, economic growth and American jobs.

 

Boustany has represented Louisiana’s 3rd Congressional District since 2005. He sits on the Ways and Means Committee.