Senate passes Ex-Im bank bill, will help Boeing exports

By:  Steve Wilhelm
Source: Puget Sound Business Journal

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed a bill reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank through 2014.

It was a boon for The Boeing Co., whose executives were worried that failure to pass the legislation might have limited their ability to export Boeing aircraft.

Ex-Im Bank provides financing to U.S. exporters to help them sell their products overseas. Last year the bank supported $41 billion in sales by more than 3,600 U.S. exporters, most of them small and medium-size businesses.

The agency’s current authorization expires May 31, and it’s close to hitting its current credit limit of $100 billion. The bill reauthorizes the agency through Sept. 30, 2014, and phases up its credit limit to $140 billion.

The vote was a defeat for free-market conservatives and Delta Air Lines, which complained about foreign carriers using airplanes purchased from Boeing with Ex-Im loans to take away market share from Delta on international routes.

The bill, which already passed the House, will go directly to President Barack Obama for signing.

This was a relief for Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who had been staving off amendments in the Senate that might have sent the bill back to the House.

In an interview with the Puget Sound Business Journal, Cantwell said that the bill isn’t just for Boeing.

“I think it’s very big for Washington state, because there are so many manufacturers that use it,” she said. “I’ve seen people who manufacture grain elevators, music stands, overhead equipment in airplanes ... We’re a state that benefits more than most states.”

In a statement, Gov. Chris Gregoire said the bill will help an array of exports.

“With Boeing being its largest customer, reauthorization is critical to maintaining and growing our state’s aerospace industry. In addition to Boeing, in the last five years alone, Ex-Im Bank has assisted more than 160 Washington state companies, the majority being small businesses,” she said. “The support resulted in the exporting of tens of billions of dollars worth of products and services.”

Cantwell suggested that the importance of exporting finally convinced enough early opponents to vote for the bill, which lifted a credit limit that would otherwise have stopped the Ex-Im bank from lending.

“It demonstrates to everybody how important it is to continue to communicate what an export economy looks like, why it is important to gain access.”