SBEA Supports Ex-Im Bank’s Board of Directors

NSBA and its international trade arm, the Small Business Exporters Association (SBEA) recently signed onto a letter to the White House urging President Barack Obama to move swiftly on nominations for the Export Import (Ex-Im) Bank’s Board of Directors. The bipartisan Board of Directors is instrumental to its day-to-day operations—managing the Bank and approving its transactions.

Ex-Im Bank authorized more than $35 billion in financing in FY 2012, supporting more than 255, 000 American jobs. The Bank worked with more than 3,400 U.S. companies, 85 percent of which were small businesses. Ex-Im is a vital tool in leveling the global playing field, helping manufacturers to offset the financing support our foreign competitors receive from their governments, and in securing new customers in emerging markets. With the U.S. economy still growing slowly, it is vital that we maintain the competitiveness of U.S. exporters. The Ex-Im Bank also generates enough fees to offset its costs, contributing the remaining surplus to the U.S. Treasury.

By law, the Bank’s Board of Directors must have a quorum – or three of its five members – to approve transactions. Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg was confirmed by the Senate on May 14, 2009. His term ended on Jan. 20, 2013, and he is currently leading the Bank under a six-month extension. Director and Vice Chair Wanda Felton and Director Larry Walther are also continuing to serve under a similar extension. The extensions allowed under the Bank’s charter will expire, at the latest, in July. If three of the five positions go unfilled, the Bank’s business will grind to a halt.

Failure to act quickly on nominations for the pending Board vacancies would threaten those hundreds of thousands of American jobs that depend directly or indirectly on Ex-Im Bank’s export financing. Reliable access to export financing is a vital part of being globally competitive, and export financing has taken on renewed importance in today’s unsettled financial environment.

If the Bank’s activities are halted, without a quorum to approve transactions, U.S. exporters would lose access to this crucial “lender of last resort.” The playing field would tilt against U.S. companies, and customers may turn to foreign competitors that have support from aggressive foreign export credit agencies. Exports are increasingly critical to manufacturers in the United States, and the latest trade data highlights the continuing challenges in the global marketplace.

U.S. goods exports in 2012 grew by only $66.7 billion, less than half the value of export growth between 2010 and 2011. This 4.9 percent increase in exports is far from the 15 percent rate of increase necessary for the United States to meet the goal of the National Export Initiative and create much-needed new economic opportunities for manufacturers. Disrupting Ex-Im Bank’s transactions would only put up another road block for U.S. exporters.

SBEA believes Ex-Im Bank needs stable, dynamic leadership to ensure the Bank maintains its track record of continuous improvements, fiscal responsibility and effective export promotion.