Reform the Ex-Im Bank

Folks across the country are demanding more economic opportunities and an expansion of the job market. Congress can meet their demands by taking action now and supporting my bill, the Reform Exports and Expand the American Economy Act, which requires 31 major reforms to the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank).

Since its inception, the Ex-Im Bank has assisted in advancing our exports and has been an American job creator, filling a critical gap in the market. But there’s no denying, it is time for Congress to overhaul this outdated agency to make it more accountable, and transparent, while requiring it to be more solvent and self-sufficient in order to reduce the burden to the taxpayer. These necessary reforms will protect the taxpayer and allow the Ex-Im Bank to advance American job growth. 

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While the continuing resolution Congress passed in September included a temporary extension of the Ex-Im Bank’s charter through June 30, 2015, I ask, “Why should Congress make our constituents wait on job growth?” I strongly believe Congress must move forward with these much-needed reforms by acting on a five-year reauthorization bill that makes the bank more solvent and reduces risk to the taxpayer as soon as possible. 

Consider some of these significant points. When U.S. manufacturers make things here in America and sell them overseas, American workers reap the benefits. In fact, exports have strengthened the U.S. economy since the recession, expanding from 10.6 percent of our gross domestic product in 2009 to 13.5 percent in 2014. Increased exports have helped companies capture growth opportunities overseas, which, in turn, has driven job growth in my home state of Tennessee and in communities across the country.

Another factor is China gaining a competitive advantage. While the future of the Ex-Im Bank remains in limbo, China and other export credit agencies are securing large export deals, placing American companies at a global competitive disadvantage. According to a recent study by the National Association of Manufacturers, official export credit financing has increased significantly over the past decade. Between 2005 and 2013, China’s export credit activity increased 867 percent, while South Korea and Canada have more than doubled their export credit assistance.

The longer Congress waits to act decisively in reforming and reauthorizing the U.S. Ex-Im Bank, we willingly surrender more business opportunities and jobs to our global competitors like China. By the nature of its existence, the Ex-Im Bank serves to correct this competitive disadvantage for American businesses, ensuring U.S. exporters have a seat at the table and are able to compete fairly in growing markets to win business. By supporting U.S. businesses the Ex-Im Bank also supports U.S. jobs.

In addition to supporting job growth, significant reforms like increasing the capital requirements for loan-loss reserves, lowering the taxpayer exposure from $140 billion to $130 billion, requiring parallel generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) reporting and an independent audit to increase transparency at the bank are provisions all focused to ensure Americans’ hard-earned dollars aren’t wasted. 

Those who advocate for ending the bank ignore the fact that it has filled a glaring void in private-sector financing by providing critical access to capital for businesses for the past eight decades. It also ignores the contributions of exports to our broader economy as we emerge from a financial crisis that crippled many of our nation’s most vibrant sectors.

With my Ex-Im Bank reform legislation, Congress has the opportunity to change the tide. With the implementation of 31 significant reforms focused on minimized risk, enhanced accountability and job growth, Congress has the ability to fortify the bank and ensure Ex-Im is able to support American jobs for years to come.

It would be foolish to let the opportunity for a long-term solution to pass us by yet again.

The time is now. 

Fincher has represented Tennessee’s 8th Congressional District since 2011. He sits on the Financial Services Committee.