Sen. Maria Cantwell: Export-Import Bank crucial for Boeing, other Washington exporters

By:  Steve Wilhelm
Source: Puget Sound Business Journal

The Export-Import Bank is a “very, very, vital tool” for growing U.S. exports, said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D), on the eve of a Senate vote on increasing an Ex-Im lending cap on Tuesday.

“We’re facing even more competition from the global community in aerospace manufacturing, we want to win new customers,” Cantwell said in an interview with Puget Sound Business Journal. “We want to be able to be successful, to continue to have the U.S. be a world leader in manufacturing, and this is a key tool for doing it.”

If passed by the Senate and then the House of Representatives, the amendment, co-sponsored by Cantwell, would extend the Ex-Im bank’s lending authority until 2015 and would up a lending cap from the current $100 billion to $140 billion.

Without the cap lift, the bank won’t be able to lend more export finance money after the end of March, which could start to hamper Boeing exports.

“We’re running out of time, we don’t want to lag in our efforts on job creation on any front, the ability to stay competitive on a global basis and to help our U.S. economy right now,” Cantwell said. “You don’t want anyone to be saying they’re slowing down on deals, or we’re not going to be talking to people, because we’re at our tap.”

Washington state is the single largest beneficiary of Export-Import financing, largely due to Boeing, with $64 billion in exports supported by Ex-Im financing from 2007 to 2012, according to the Ex-Im website.

The financing guarantees loans, allowing U.S. goods to compete against goods in international markets without the burden of higher financing costs.

While the vast majority of the Washington sales come from Boeing, other leading state companies using Ex-Im financing include Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Ltd., Concordia Coffee Company, Inc. of Bellevue, Outback Power Technologies, Inc. of Arlington, and Northwest Pipe Company of Vancouver, Wash.

Cantwell has had some unusual support for the bill in the form of co-sponsor, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) from South Carolina, who sees the financing as important for Boeing 787 exports from his state.

“It’s important to have allies across the aisle when you’re taking about important economic issues for the state, or for manufacturing in general, "she said. “Sen. Graham and I have worked on a couple of things in the past that impacted aviation and manufacturing.”