Washington state Congressional leaders call to extend Export-Import Bank as May 31 closing date nears

Sen. Maria Cantwell and Sen. Patty Murray called for Congress to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank during a tour of Esterline’s Everett facility April 10, where more than 600 workers manufacture cockpit hardware for Boeing Co. airplanes.

As a government agency, the Export-Import Bank subsidizes the sales of American exports when private banks are unwilling to finance sales of goods to foreign buyers.

Unless Congress renews the bank before May 31, it will close.

In Whatcom County, eight companies have received loans from the bank since 2007 to support their exports, including firms in Bellingham, Ferndale, Lynden and Sumas.

Absorption Corp., a Ferndale-based manufacturing company in the small pet industry, has received the most out of all Whatcom County firms in the last five years. Absorption has taken more than $4.1 million in loans, while generating the same amount in export sales, according to the Export-Import Bank’s website.

In March, Cantwell and Murray backed an amendment to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank for four years. It would extend the bank’s authority until 2015 and increase its lending ability from $100 billion to $140 billion.

“Extending the Export-Import Bank is critical for American manufacturing competitiveness and jobs,” Cantwell said, in an April 10 press release. “Allowing the bank to expire would be a setback to Washington’s exporters competing against far more aggressive export credit financing in countries like France and China. Congress needs to reauthorize this crucial job-creating tool without delay.”

The Washington Council on International Trade, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Small Business Association and the National Association of Manufacturers support the bank’s reauthorization, according to Cantwell’s office.

Critics of the Export-Import Bank have knocked the amount of lending steered toward major corporate interests, saying the bank is a form of corporate welfare.

An analysis from the Pew Charitable Trusts found that in 2007 and 2008, nearly 65 percent of the $15.3 billion lent by the bank over both years went to Boeing.

However, Cantwell and Murray say the bank’s operation is vital to small business owners; it creates jobs, doesn’t cost taxpayers and will reduce the deficit by $900 million over the next five years.

Rep. Rick Larsen, a Democrat representing Washington’s 2nd Congressional District, has introduced similar legislation in the U.S. House to extend the bank.

According to Cantwell’s office, the Export-Import Bank supports 83,000 jobs in Washington state, including supporting $66 billion in sales from 172 Washington state exporters over the last five years. Of those 172 exporters, 121 were small businesses.

The Washington state Democrat also said the bank’s financing for smaller exporters has risen more than 70 percent over the last three years, comprising more than 85 percent of the bank’s transactions. In 2011, more than 700 first-time small businesses and nearly 500 minority and women-owned businesses used the bank’s services.

The Export-Import Bank is scheduled to open a new branch in Seattle this summer.

“For over 75 years the Export-Import Bank has supported job-creating U.S. exports by helping American businesses sell to the world,” Murray said. “And no one knows this better than the businesses here in Washington state. Reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank means a level playing field for more than 150 Washington state businesses who rely on this financing to sell their products overseas and to keep jobs here at home. Given the obvious need for exports to power economic growth, it would be irresponsible to pull the plug on this vital resource for our nation’s job creators.”



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