This federal agency holds a key to American infrastructure and jobs
In a speech to the Detroit Economic Club in August, then-candidate Donald Trump made a promise to American voters: “We will build the next generation of roads, bridges, railways, tunnels, seaports and airports that our country deserves.”
Indeed, the most powerful country on earth deserves a new generation of infrastructure. Not only is it deserved, in our view, it is vital to the future success of our economy.
As leaders of federal agencies focused on jobs, infrastructure, manufacturing and exports, we thought to share some of our experiences for consideration by the president-elect, as well as secretary-designate for the Department of Transportation, Elaine Chao.
With Trump’s plan to invest $1 trillion in infrastructure, many are asking where the money will come from. Here’s an idea: take the money generated by the Export-Import Bank of the United States and use it to leverage infrastructure investment here at home.
The Ex-Im Bank provides financing for U.S. exporters and, in the process, generates revenue for American taxpayers—$3.8 billion since 2009. The Wall Street Journal has called that revenue “profit,” but it is also an opportunity for infrastructure. Why not take that revenue and use it innovatively to seed even more capital to improve our infrastructure?
One of the keys to being competitive, in addition to having cutting-edge products, is an export credit agency that supports them. “Made in America” is the best selling point we have, but it is not enough in this competitive environment.
There are 85 and counting other export credit agencies around the world that are ready and willing to step-in and support manufacturing jobs at companies in their respective countries that compete with ours. In order to effectively compete in the global marketplace, we also need the ability to deliver goods and services to market quickly, with less friction. This requires world-class infrastructure.
Throughout our federal service, we have promoted American manufacturing and exporting at businesses across our country and to customers around the world. Our nation excels at producing many of the goods and services that the rest of the world needs in order to build their own infrastructure for economic growth. Many other countries have relied on the Ex-Im Bank to finance those purchases. The result is more American manufacturing and service jobs here at home.
Right now, the United States is the second-largest exporting nation in the world. China is number one, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Particularly at a moment when free trade agreements have come under political fire, having a simple, profitable financing arm to level the playing field for U.S. exports is vital to our national economic strategy. It is also critical to creating and sustaining well-paying jobs for American workers.
Americans from every party and political affiliation have made their voices heard. They want to fight for and win the opportunities that grow our economy and transform the world. They know that the world is a competitive place.
Americans are hungry to do business, create jobs, and enjoy the world-class roads, bridges, railroads, airports and aircraft our country deserves. They also know that the competition doesn’t always take place on a level playing field.
Sanctions alone won’t do the trick. Innovation is key to our competitiveness, but financing from our own export credit agency makes it possible for our goods and services to compete on their merits. Modern infrastructure is another key to moving goods and people to market quickly and efficiently.
We need an export bank that stands behind American workers and generates profit for taxpayers. While deficit reduction is good, let’s put that profit to work for infrastructure improvement and immediate job growth.
Fred Hochberg is chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Ray LaHood served as the 16th U.S. secretary of transportation from 2009 to 2013 under President Obama.
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