USTR Official Tapped for Ex-Im Post

According to the White House, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Jeffrey Gerrish will be named Acting President of the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. (Ex-Im). Mr. Gerrish will continue his role at USTR while serving at the export credit agency.

Ex-Im operates under a renewable general statutory charter, and was extended through Sept. 30, 2019 by the Export-Import Bank Reform and Reauthorization Act of 2015, a surface transportation authorization measure. Enacted on Dec. 4, 2015, the measure lowered Ex-Im Bank’s statutory lending authority (“exposure cap” for outstanding portfolio) to $135 billion for each of FY2015-FY2019, and made reforms in a number of areas, including to Ex-Im’s policies or operations in risk management, fraud controls, and ethics, as well as to the U.S. approach to international negotiations on export credit financing.

Ex-Im has been without a Chairman since President Donald Trump took office and the last of the bank’s five board members quit in March. Since 2015, it has not had the quorum of at least three members it needs to finance deals or projects worth more than $10 million.

On Dec. 19, 2017, the Senate Banking Committee rejected President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead Ex-Im. The panel, in a 10-13 vote, declined to advance the nomination of Scott Garrett, a former Republican congressman from New Jersey, who helped lead a push that briefly closed Ex-Im in 2015. While in the House, Mr. Garrett was among the conservatives who persistently tried to shut down the Ex-Im Bank on the grounds that its crony capitalism distorts the market to help some of America’s biggest companies.

The Senate Banking Committee did approve four other nominees to serve on the Ex-Im Board — Kimberly Reed, Spencer Bachus, Judith Pryor and Claudia Slacik. If they are confirmed by the Senate that would give Ex-Im a quorum, allowing the agency to approve business deals of greater than $10 million. The bank has lacked a quorum for nearly three years, preventing them from approving insurance, loans or guarantees above $10 million. Despite, the four nominee’s advancement in the committee, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said there is no guidance or time-frame about whether the Senate will take up these four nominations to the five-member board. An aide to Leader McConnell has said that votes on President Trump’s other nominees would not be held until he names a new chairman.

In recent years, Ex-Im has been barely functional. According to its most recent annual report, Ex-Im authorized just $3.4 billion of mostly short-term export credit in 2017. That is down from the $20 billion that it authorized in 2014, the last year that the bank was fully operational. The report points out that China provided $34 billion in medium- and long-term financing for its exports in 2016, underscoring the competitive disadvantage that the United States faces.

After Ex-Im’s board became empty last month, NSBA and its international trade arm—the Small Business Exporters Association (SBEA)—continued to call for the Senate to hold a floor vote on the pending nominees, as the lack of action is costing American jobs and competitiveness overseas, leading to trade imbalances and slower growth opportunities, especially for small exporters.