Fighting for the Most Important Bank for Washington State Exports: the Ex-Im Bank

If you’ve been following the trade news this summer, you’ve probably witnessed the political wrestling match surrounding the Export-Import Bank, the national export credit agency. Reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank before its September 30 expiration has been one of WCIT’s top priorities, and we’ve thrown all our energy behind it this summer, by writing columns and op-eds, sending letters to our Congressional delegation and participating in advocacy events.

On Thursday Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) that will fund the federal government until December 11, 2014, and will also extend the charter of the Ex-Im Bank until June 30, 2015. At first glance, this may appear to be a good thing, but in reality this only spells more uncertainty for the Bank and our state’s exporters. In fact, a recent article by Politico’s chief economic correspondent called it a potential “death sentence.”

WCIT released a statement emphasizing that anything other than a long-term extension is unacceptable; our exporters need certainty in order to be successful and competitive in the global marketplace. As John Brislin, the Seattle Regional Director for the Ex-Im Bank has said, for a small business trying to finance sales to a foreign customer using the Ex-Im Bank, it’s like trying to sell a subscription to a magazine that the customer knows may go out of business in a couple of months. Since all of our major trading partners and every other developed nation offer stable, competitive export financing programs, it’s easy for the foreign customers to take their business elsewhere, costing Washington state companies lost sales and thus jobs.

There’s another reason it is problematic to extend the Ex-Im Bank until only June 2015: it increases the odds that it won’t be reauthorized at all. Some members of House leadership want to put the Bank out of business because they believe the U.S. government should not interfere in the private market, even when it is beneficial and profitable to do so. As a result, their strategy appears to be to separate Ex-Im from other critical funding legislation, so that it cannot be used as a political bargaining chip by Ex-Im supporters.  Then they hope the Bank will quietly die when less people are watching next summer. In addition, they hope that if Republicans take control of the Senate after the elections, they have a better chance of shutting down the Bank.

Senator Cantwell led a group of bipartisan senators to push for attaching a multi-year extension of the Ex-Im Bank in the Senate’s version of the CR, but unfortunately her efforts were not successful.  We are fortunate in Washington state to have a Congressional delegation that shows such strong leadership on trade policy issues, and many in our delegation have pulled out all the stops to ensure that the Ex-Im Bank continues to enable our state’s exporters to compete on a level playing field.

With over 180 Washington companies and over 120,000 Washington jobs supported by the Ex-Im Bank, we cannot give up on this export finance program that is critical to Washington state’s global competitiveness. WCIT will keep the pressure up over the next few months, and we’ll need all of your efforts in the tough fight that may lie ahead.

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