By Rep. Mimi Walters
In the coming week, Congress has the opportunity to pass meaningful legislation that would support U.S. jobs and manufacturing, boost economic growth and help American companies compete abroad.
Over 100 days ago, the Export-Import Bank’s congressionally mandated charter expired – halting Ex-Im’s ability to process new applications, and limiting the ability of American businesses to sell their products and services overseas. This week, the House will vote to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank, effectively restoring one of our nation’s most vital means of advancing trade and increasing exports. As the official U.S. export credit agency, the Ex-Im Bank has supported U.S. trade for over 80 years by providing working capital, loan financing and credit insurance to exporters.
Approximately 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the U.S. This means that exports are more crucial than ever when it comes to increasing our nation’s competitive edge and advancing job opportunities for American workers. Since 2009, approximately one-third of our economic growth has been a result of exports – and Ex-Im is vital to our nation’s trade competitiveness and continued growth in exports.
In 2014 alone, the Ex-Im Bank provided financing or loan guarantees for $27.5 billion in total U.S. export value, supporting more than 164,000 American jobs. Nearly 90 percent of these financing authorizations in 2014 supported U.S. small businesses. In California, from 2007-14, Ex-Im activities supported more than $23 billion in exports, nearly 1,100 companies and over 149,000 jobs. In those seven years within my congressional district alone, Ex-Im supported $877 million in exports, nearly 70 companies, all based in Orange County, and over 5,600 jobs.
If Congress fails to reauthorize Ex-Im, we run the risk of losing jobs to companies overseas and leaving U.S. businesses at a competitive disadvantage. The vast majority of developed countries have export credit agencies, which are eager to fill the void left by Ex-Im. These foreign export credit agencies are ready to finance and underwrite hundreds of billions in business activity for the benefit of its own companies.
In fact, China has provided approximately $670 billion in export financing over the past two years. We simply cannot afford to abandon U.S. exporters as they face increased foreign competition in an increasingly globalized economy.
Some have argued that Ex-Im is unnecessary because the private market will step in to fulfill its role. This is simply a naïve view of export financing. Ex-Im functions in the areas where private financiers are unable to operate. For example, many large, foreign contracts require that the bidder have export credit agency support. Without Ex-Im reauthorization, U.S. companies will be excluded from competing for these contracts, to the detriment of U.S. jobs and economic growth.
Furthermore, contrary to what some may say, Ex-Im operates at no cost to the taxpayer. Over the past six years, Ex-Im has returned money to American taxpayers to the tune of $2.7 billion, all of which is used to help offset the sizeable federal budget deficit. Simply put, Ex-Im creates enormous value for U.S. businesses and the American people.
In addition to reauthorizing Ex-Im’s charter, the House bill will include a number of reforms to Ex-Im, including efforts to increase congressional oversight and ensure Ex-Im’s financial stability. The reforms include the creation of an Office of Ethics, to help eliminate fraud and abuse, as well as audits to assess fraud controls. Further, the bill would institute numerous risk-management procedures.
Congress has the opportunity to pass common-sense legislation that has a real impact on our nation and our community here in Orange County. This week, I plan to take a stand for jobs, economic stability and American competitiveness in a global market. I urge my colleagues to stand with me on this important issue that provides significant benefits to our local economy and so many Californians.
Mimi Walters, R-Irvine, represents California’s 45th Congressional District.