Business groups ramp up campaign for renewal of Ex-Im Bank's charter

Business groups are ramping up their campaign in the expected battle to renew funding for the Export-Import Bank.

Linda Dempsey, vice president of international economic affairs for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), argues that a majority of the Bank’s users are small manufacturers trying to expand overseas.

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Dempsey said that critics ignore that nearly 90 percent of all Ex-Im transactions — 3,413, to be exact — directly supported small businesses in 2013.

She argued that the Ex-Im Bank can help U.S. companies get first crack at selling their products to foreign countries in an ever-competitive global economy that isn’t waiting for Congress to providing funding.

"The issue that Ex-Im reauthorization presents is whether those foreign projects will use products made in the United States by American workers or whether those sales will go to our competitors in Asia, Europe or elsewhere,” she said.

Myron Brilliant, executive vice president and head of international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said that “the facts show Ex-Im continues to play a critical role helping American companies compete in global markets."

“Ex-Im loans expose the U.S. taxpayer to little risk because they are backed by the collateral of the goods being exported,” he wrote.

“At a time when polls show the economy, growth, and jobs remain top priorities, efforts to hobble Ex-Im will quickly hit the headlines as export deals are lost to third-country competitors."

The Bank, headed by Fred Hochberg, went through a tough reauthorization fight two years ago.

The law increased the total financing the 80-year-old Bank can guarantee — to $140 billion from $100 billion — and renewed its charter for three years, through Sept. 30.

The House and the Senate provided broad support for the reauthorization bill.

On Wednesday, the White House sent fresh draft legislation to Capitol Hill.

The reauthorization bill would increase the Bank’s lending cap by $5 billion each fiscal year from 2015 through 2018, with an exposure limit capped at $160 billion.

The bill would also extend Ex-Im Bank’s authority for five years, through Sept. 30, 2019.

The bank provides loan guarantees to foreign companies that want to do business with U.S. exporters.

To help in the fight, manufacturers also are rolling out a series of digital ads in support of the Bank's mission as well as highlighting specific companies that have benefited from its loans. 

On Thursday, Hochberg blasted critics calling on them to let the bank continue its operations.

But there is no sign from House Republicans that they are are willing to take up a bill, and may just be content to let the bank close.

“There's a vocal minority out there who can't stomach the thought that the government might have a role to play in empowering U.S. businesses to compete across the globe,” Hochberg said at the Bank's annual conference.

“Of course, everyone is entitled to their own theories and dogmas — but theories don't pay the bills. Business owners like you live in the real world — and for you, those theories can trigger harmful repercussions.”

The Senate Banking Committee held a hearing in January and House Democrats said earlier this month that reauthorizing the Bank is a top priority.

But Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) is telling colleagues that he opposes another reauthorization.

Outside the United States, at least 59 foreign export credit agencies are working to help foreign competitors and they provide loans to projects that go through a less rigorous process to gain financing, according to NAM and the Chamber. 

“Given the highly competitive global economy, reauthorization of the bank is a vital component to a robust U.S. trade policy that levels the playing field for America’s manufacturers whose international competitors already benefit from their own governments’ highly generous export financing,” said Lauren Airey, NAM’s director of trade facilitation policy.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) said the Bank plays a crucial role in helping American businesses, especially small firms, compete overseas.

"Congress must put this matter to rest as soon as possible by reaffirming its support for the Bank's mission and passing a multi-year reauthorization that can restore certainty to the businesses the Bank serves," he said.