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Monday, September 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Sen. Maria Cantwell: Export-Import Bank’s renewal vital to America’s success

Sen. Maria Cantwell

Washingtonians know the importance of our export economy. We make great products, and we should be shipping them around the globe, reaching the growing worldwide middle class.

Recently, the U.S. Senate took an important, long-overdue step to support our workers and exporters when it confirmed three nominees to the United States Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) board of directors.

Ex-Im provides the financing support necessary to help thousands of businesses of every size reach overseas markets – where more than 95% of consumers live.

But since 2015, due to an extreme minority in the United States Senate, the bank has been operating without a quorum on its board of directors, preventing it from approving large transactions and leaving nearly $40 billion worth of deals in limbo.

That’s $40 billion worth of American products unable to reach new markets and new customers. $40 billion of exports supporting high-paying American jobs and economic output left on the factory floor.

That’s why these confirmations are so important – after more than three years, the bank can get back to work clearing this backlog of stalled financing and supporting American businesses and jobs.

Now we need to make sure this good news is more than temporary. The Export-Import Bank will not be able to support new financing at the end of September if Congress does not reauthorize it.

We need to build on our momentum to reauthorize the bank so it can continue to support financing that is vital for American jobs and American exports.

Over the past five years, the bank has supported financing for 128 Washington companies – including many in the Spokane area – to export their products abroad.

One such company is Landmark Turf and Native Seed in Spokane. With the help of the Export-Import Bank, they sell seed products to countries like China, Colombia, Argentina, Turkey and members of the European Union.

These foreign sales currently represent more than $10 million a year. But without the Export-Import Bank, those sales could decrease by as much as 80% – that’s why owner Orlin Reinbold describes it as “critical to our financial well-being.”

Another example is SCAFCO, which makes grain storage bins, silos, and other agriculture processing and storage equipment. It manufactures its products in the United States and sells them in more than 80 markets around the world.

When an opportunity arose to sell a grain storage system to Cambodia, SCAFCO was ready to deliver. But the Cambodian market – like many others – is hard for U.S. companies to reach, because private financing is difficult to obtain. With the help of the Ex-Im Bank, however, SCAFCO was able to make the sale.

It’s a textbook example of how the bank delivers for American workers and businesses. Around the country, there are hundreds more.

The U.S. Senate should not be in the business of making it harder for U.S. companies to compete. But that is the unfortunate impact these actions have had.

In Fiscal Year 2014, when the bank was fully operational, it supported nearly 43,650 jobs in Washington and more than 164,000 nationwide. In Fiscal Year 2018, operating without a quorum, the bank was only able to support 650 jobs in Washington and 33,000 nationwide. That’s a decline of 98.5% and 80%, respectively.

The National Association of Manufacturers estimates this has meant the loss of at least 80,000 American manufacturing jobs and $119billion in economic output.

American businesses are some of the best in the world. But with Ex-Im not fully operational, American businesses lost ground to their competitors.

More than 100 other export credit agencies worldwide help foreign companies fill those voids. In fact, China did more export financing in the last three years than the Export-Import Bank has done in its 85-year history.

Washingtonians know that competing in a 21st century economy requires an aggressive export strategy. Washingtonians know the Export-Import Bank is a vital tool in that toolbox.

I’m ready to collaborate with my colleagues in the Senate to grow our export economy by reauthorizing Ex-Im before it expires in September.

Maria Cantwell, D, is a U.S. senator for the state of Washington.

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