Senators Call on Congress for Renewal of Ex-Im Bank

By:  Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel - Agnel Philip
Source: Journal Sentinel

Democratic Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Maria Cantwell of Washington called on Congress to renew a federal agency tasked with providing loan guarantees and other financial support to businesses that want to export their products.

"We face in two weeks the prospect of the Export-Import Bank shutting down because of politics, and that is shortsighted and very, very unfortunate in terms of job creation and economic development in our country," Baldwin said Monday at an event at Prolitec Inc. in Milwaukee.

The Export-Import Bank faces its sunset date on June 30. Critics, especially Tea Party Republicans, have said the bank represents another form of corporate welfare and picks winners and loser in the marketplace. Supporters, like Baldwin and Cantwell, say the bank provides much needed capital that allows businesses to compete internationally.

Since 2007, the bank has helped 218 Wisconsin companies export $5 billion worth of goods and products made in the state, according to the agency's website. Cantwell said the bank is profitable for the American taxpayers and generates money for the Treasury.

Prolitec Inc. CEO Richard Weening said his company, which makes and sells scents for retail stores around the world, was able to grow from two to 60 employees and export its product to 90 countries in part because of help from the bank.

"I'm sure that we'll survive, but I'm sure there are lots of small companies in Wisconsin and Washington and all over the country that will not," Weening said. "So I think this whole idea of not renewing Ex-Im Bank must be a misunderstanding. There has to be something else going on because, on the merits, this is the only job development program that I know of, the only business development program that I know of, that actually works."

Cantwell said the bank's renewal is being held up by a select few in Congress on ideological grounds.

"If we let this charter expire, we will put American jobs at risk and American exporters will be at a disadvantage from other countries that actually have the same kinds of credit agencies," she said.

Because 95% of the world's customers are outside the U.S., companies have to look at selling their products overseas, Cantwell said. As the world's middle class continues to grow, she said the bank provides the security for companies to risk selling internationally

For states like Wisconsin that rely on manufacturing for their economies, exports are a vital part of economic growth, Baldwin said.

"The expiration of the Export-Import Bank is going to have a much bigger impact on a manufacturing state like Wisconsin," she said. "Whether it's big business or small, it's going to have a ripple effect throughout our communities."