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Now is the time to fix Ex-Im Bank

Now is the time to fix Ex-Im Bank
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The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) recently released a quarterly outlook survey showing a 20-year record-high level of confidence and optimism among our members. What’s behind that optimism? The flurry of action in Congress this week helps explain why.

Both chambers just took historic votes to pass sweeping, pro-growth tax reform. That is huge. But there were other important developments in Congress as well. Take the Senate Banking Committee, which, on Tuesday, took critical action to help get the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank functioning again — something that is vital to the future of manufacturing in this country. 

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First, the committee voted to reject former Rep. Scott GarrettErnest (Scott) Scott GarrettManufacturers support Reed to helm Ex-Im Bank Trump taps nominee to lead Export-Import Bank Who has the edge for 2018: Republicans or Democrats? MORE (R-N.J.) to head the bank. That’s good news for manufacturers, and it’s good news for our economy. Ex-Im is simply too important to be led by someone who has consistently tried to destroy it, as Garrett has. That’s why the NAM steadfastly opposed his attempt to lead the agency from the start. We thank the committee for voting to reject him.

 

At the same time, the committee approved President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump to fundraise for 3 Republicans running for open seats: report Trump to nominate former Monsanto exec to top Interior position White House aides hadn’t heard of Trump's new tax cut: report MORE’s other four nominations to round out the bank’s board of directors: Kimberly Reed, Spencer BachusSpencer Thomas BachusThe key for EXIM's future lies in accountability Manufacturers support Reed to helm Ex-Im Bank Manufacturers ramp up pressure on Senate to fill Ex-Im Bank board MORE, Judith Delzoppo Pryor and Claudia Slacik — nominees that manufacturers have strongly supported.

These nominees share the president’s vigorous and outspoken support of the important role Ex-Im plays in creating American jobs. They are dedicated to a fully functioning Ex-Im Bank that gives the men and women who make things in America a fighting chance to compete and win in a highly competitive global economy. These nominees, unlike Garrett, cleared committee on Tuesday with strong support from both sides of the aisle. 

That’s because they, like the manufacturing workers the NAM represents, understand the vital role the Ex-Im Bank plays in manufacturing in the United States. The bank is critical to allowing our exporters to compete on a global scale for the 95 percent of consumers who are located outside our borders.

More than 90 percent of the bank’s transactions in fiscal year 2016 directly supported small businesses. But Ex-Im cannot continue to level the playing field if it is not even allowed to function properly — as is the case right now.

The bank currently lacks a quorum on its board of directors. That leaves it hobbled, unable to even fully function, much less support American jobs (nearly 1.5 million American jobs have been secured over the past eight years because of U.S. export sales supported by the Ex-Im Bank).

A hobbled Ex-Im Bank also is unable to continue paying down the budget deficit (when allowed to function properly, the Ex-Im Bank not only covers its own operating costs but has actually generated billions in additional revenue for taxpayers).

When you consider the more than 90 different foreign-government-backed export credit agencies that work overtime each day to support their own domestic industries at the expense of our manufacturers, it’s clear why we need a functioning Ex-Im Bank again — and quickly — to help level the playing field for American manufacturers and workers.

At the end of the day, the record level of optimism among America’s manufacturers is premised on the belief that Washington is finally now embracing policies that will help manufacturing workers and the economy. The president has taken bold action over the past year, especially on regulations. Congress clearly is making important progress as well.

Now, let’s sustain manufacturers’ record-setting optimism by following through on other critical priorities. From confirming the full slate of committee-approved Ex-Im Bank nominees to other important priorities, such as enacting a new so-called “Miscellaneous Tariff Bill” to remove nearly 1,700 distortive border taxes that cost manufacturers hundreds of millions of dollars each year, there is still more to be done.

The sooner we do these things, the sooner manufacturers can do what they do best: grow our economy, create more better-paying jobs and drive American enterprise and innovation forward.

Linda Dempsey is the vice president of international economic affairs for the National Association of Manufacturers.