Treasury Secretary: Ex-Im Bank is a ‘Critical Component’ of U.S. Trade Strategy

In response to Cantwell, Secretary Lew reaffirms White House support for long-term Ex-Im reauthorization

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew told U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) that the Export-Import Bank is a “critical component” of U.S. trade strategy and reaffirmed the Obama administration’s support for a long-term reauthorization. Lew’s testimony came during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the Obama administration’s 2016 budget proposal.

Cantwell asked Lew how important the Export-Import Bank is to U.S. trade. The “Ex-Im Bank” is an export credit agency for the United States, helping to finance or insure the purchase of U.S. goods by foreign customers to help American companies expand. Cantwell has been a champion of the Ex-Im Bank in the Senate due to its importance to Washington state trade.

“The Export-Import Bank is a critical component of our export strategy,” Lew said. “We can’t unilaterally put our companies in a position where exporters from other countries have export support and they don’t. If you’re selling from Washington state, I know aircraft is a big issue. If you’re selling aircraft against a competitor that has export financing because of a program like the Export-Import Bank, that’s not something you can make up for just by running a tighter operation.”

“We have advocated for reauthorization that would provide longer–term certainty around the program because uncertainty is not a good thing,” Lew said. “We are looking at where the markets are growing and we want American companies to have access to those markets, which is a way to create good, middle-class jobs in the United States.”

Currently, the Bank’s charter is set to expire in May after Congress failed to approve a long-term reauthorization last June. Cantwell was critical of this short-term extension, pointing to uncertainty that a short-term extension can create in the marketplace. The Ex-Im Bank helps U.S. companies compete in an international market where about 60 countries – including the world’s top 10 exporters – have similar export credit agencies.

“I almost feel like our economic agenda should just have the word export on it,” Cantwell said. “Ninety-five percent of consumers live outside the United States and the doubling of the middle class around the globe in the next 15 years is a great economic opportunity for the U.S.”

The Export-Import Bank supports more than 180 exporters in Washington state, two-thirds of which are small businesses. About 85,000 jobs in Washington state are supported by sales involving Ex-Im Bank financing. Nationwide, it has supported $233 billion in exports since 2007.

The Export-Import Bank is self-supported through interest payments and fees, turning a profit for the U.S. taxpayer. In 2013, the bank transferred $1 billion to the U.S. Treasury.

In 2014, Cantwell cosponsored bipartisan legislation that would have extended the Ex-Im Bank for five years.

During the hearing, Cantwell also cited freight mobility and the State Trade and Export Promotion program – a Small Business Administration grant program to help small businesses export – as important to trade.