MLive: Revive the Export-Import bank to keep Michigan competitive
Last month, I had the opportunity to visit Mill Steel Company in Grand Rapids, one of hundreds of Michigan businesses that work with the Export-Import Bank of the United States to export their made-in-Michigan products across the globe. Mill Steel is one of North America's premier flat-rolled steel suppliers, and it's also a family-owned business that strives to reinvest in the community by making Michigan products and hiring Michigan workers.
By partnering with the Ex-Im Bank to secure loan guarantees, Mill Steel has been able to sell its steel to auto suppliers in Canada and continue hiring new employees and providing good-paying jobs right here in Michigan.
But last month, a small, extreme partisan minority in Congress allowed the charter for the Ex-Im Bank to expire, risking billions of dollars in U.S. exports and hundreds of thousands of American jobs, and putting America's small businesses at a disadvantage in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.
Over its 81-year history, the Ex-Im Bank has enabled American companies to sell their goods in foreign markets and grow their businesses by offering direct loans to businesses to start exporting, working with private lenders to fill gaps in financing and providing insurance to help businesses protect their bottom lines if a foreign buyer fails to pay. Simply put, the Ex-Im Bank helps close deals that would simply never happen without its support. This creates more demand here at home for parts, services and skilled workers, and opens new markets and new customers to American businesses.
Most importantly, the Ex-Im Bank does all this while turning a profit for taxpayers. In fact, in 2014 alone, the Ex-Im Bank contributed their $675 million surplus to reduce the federal budget deficit.
The Ex-Im Bank also helps level the playing field for American companies in a tough global market. Last year, it supported more than $27.4 billion in U.S. exports and 164,000 jobs. More than $10 billion of that total — nearly 40 percent — represented exports by small businesses. Critics charge that the Ex-Im Bank supports corporate welfare, but 90 percent of its overall transactions directly supported small businesses, including many that serve as suppliers for larger companies.
Here in Michigan, the Ex-Im Bank has supported 229 exporter businesses selling $11 billion worth of goods to places like Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Canada. This support is particularly important for our manufacturing industry, and the majority of Michigan companies using the Ex-Im Bank are manufacturers of motor vehicles and parts, machinery and chemicals — the backbone of Michigan's economy.
Renewing Ex-Im Bank's charter is especially critical as Michigan manufacturers fight to compete with countries using extreme and unfair measures, such as direct subsidies or currency manipulation, to boost their own manufacturing sectors. Many of our competitors, including China, Japan, South Korea, Canada and Germany, use their own export credit agencies to boost their countries' exports. China provided more financing through its export credit agency in the last two years than our own Ex-Im Bank has in its entire history. Without our own Export-Import Bank, American businesses will struggle to compete overseas, and our economy will suffer.
That is why the Ex-Im Bank has broad bipartisan support in Congress from members of both parties, as well as organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Small Business Association and the National Association of Manufacturers. Congress should focus on growing our economy and creating American jobs, and the Export-Import Bank is key to that mission. Congress must act now to renew the Ex-Im Bank's charter and help secure Michigan's economic competitiveness as a hub for manufacturing and trade, grow our economy and strengthen our middle class.
By: US Senator Gary Peters
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