More exports mean more jobs: Renew Ex-Im charter

More exports mean more jobs: Renew Ex-Im charter

Steve Wilburn, chief executive officer and owner of a small renewable energy company, employs 11 people today. If he wins his bid on a $300 million project in the Philippines with the help of an Export-Import Bank loan, he may employ 400.

“Trade creates jobs. We lose that trade, we lose those jobs,” Wilburn said.

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Like thousands of small-business owners across the country, Wilburn, a Vietnam vet, depends on America’s export credit agency to help him break into foreign markets and expand his business. But the Ex-Im Bank’s charter lapsed at the end of June. And Republican leaders in the House blocked a vote to renew the charter, a vote that almost certainly would have succeeded, given majority support for the bank. The Senate adopted an amendment to renew the bank’s charter as part of its highway funding bill, but the House refused to take up an Ex-Im reauthorization amendment.

Without the bank’s help, Wilburn’s Philippines project — and all the jobs that go with it —will likely go to a South Korean rival. Now, he must wait nervously until Congress returns from its August recess to determine the fate of his loan.

Each year, the Export-Import Bank helps thousands of small businesses like Wilburn’s. Overall, Ex-Im supported an estimated $27.5 billion in exports and 164,000 jobs last fiscal year. It costs taxpayers nothing and has returned billions of dollars to the Treasury.

The political right has made misleading claims to justify its crusade against Ex-Im. At a recent press conference, presidential candidate Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Immigration drama grips Washington Senate Gang of Four to meet next week on immigration Live coverage: High drama as hardline immigration bill fails, compromise vote delayed MORE vowed to do whatever it takes to kill the bank because, he said, it is “giving away taxpayer money.”

The fact is that Ex-Im gets that money back — plus interest and fees. Since 1992, Ex-Im has sent nearly $7 billion to the Treasury, including $675 million last year, helping to reduce the deficit.

Some, seeking a political makeover by putting on a show of fighting for the little guy, claim that Ex-Im is a tool of big business. Ted Cruz says that it “benefit[s] a handful of giant corporations.” What he omits is the fact that 90 percent of the bank’s transactions benefit small businesses.

It’s true, in raw dollars Ex-Im does provide more assistance to large businesses than to small ones, because in private industry — with or without Ex-Im — large businesses simply make much larger deals and sell more products overseas. But that is no excuse for killing an institution that comes to the aid of thousands of small businesses.

In a perfect world, in which American companies competed with foreign ones on a level playing field, Ex-Im might not need to exist. But the world we live in is far from perfect. There are approximately 85 foreign export credit agencies (institutions that play a similar role to the Ex-Im Bank) in more than 60 countries that work aggressively to give their businesses an advantage over U.S. companies and other competition. Those who want to kill Ex-Im are forcing American companies to work at a competitive disadvantage.

Top U.S. competitors, like China, Germany and South Korea, have their versions of the Ex-Im Bank. Even small countries, like Jamaica and Bulgaria, help their exporters expand into new markets. As long as those countries come to the aid of their own exporters, killing the U.S. Export-Import Bank is a form of economic disarmament.

China seems gleeful that Congress has failed to reauthorize Ex-Im. Recently, the Export-Import Bank of China’s chief country risk analyst told reporters that the demise of the U.S. Export-Import Bank was “a good thing” for China.

One certain way to move the Republican faithful is to pay homage to Ronald Reagan. And what did Reagan say of the Export-Import Bank? He said that it “contributes in a significant way to our nation’s export sales.” And President George W. Bush said Ex-Im “helps advance U.S. trade policy, facilitate the sales of U.S. goods and services abroad and create jobs here at home.”

The National Association of Manufacturers, the National Small Business Association, the Financial Services Roundtable and the Chamber of Commerce all support reauthorizing Ex-Im. The Chamber has organized a letter in support of Ex-Im signed by more than 1,000 American businesses and associations.

For most of its 81-year history, Ex-Im has enjoyed broad bipartisan support. It has been reauthorized on 16 separate occasions under Republican and Democratic administrations alike. More than 180 current House Democrats have signed on to legislation to reauthorize Ex-Im, and 60 House Republicans support another bill that would extend the bank’s charter.

In the end, one thing matters most to members of Congress — what do your constituents say? A number of the more than 60 companies in my district that have received help from Ex-Im in recent years beg me to do everything possible to protect it.

As small-business owner Steve Wilburn aptly put it: “We should be competitive on the world stage. We shouldn’t retreat.”

We should not retreat. Let’s work together to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank when Congress returns in September.

Maloney represents New York’s 12th Congressional District and has served in the House since 1993. She sits on the Financial Services and the Oversight and Government Reform committees.