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Trump Wants to Close Trade Gap, but Leaves Export Agency in Limbo

The Export-Import bank has been without a chairman since 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.

This lack of members has put American manufacturers like Boeing and General Electric at a global disadvantage, prompting a lobbying campaign by business groups.

“The Export-Import Bank plays a vital role in supporting American companies as they work to sell their products to customers across the world,” said Neil Bradley, the executive vice president and chief policy officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “But as long as the seats remain vacant, U.S. businesses are at a disadvantage relative to global competitors.”

The bank has historically been used by large corporations like Boeing and General Electric, which received loan guarantees to sell products like airplanes, satellites and industrial equipment to developing countries, lifting sales and supporting American jobs. It has provided loan guarantees to overseas airlines looking to buy American-made jets and helped organizations like the Environmental Chemical Corporation build water facilities in Africa.

In recent years however, the bank 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 bank’s crippling has been costly for both companies and their workers, including Boeing. In the last two years, two deals involving the sale of its commercial satellites have been canceled and one was significantly delayed given the lack of a quorum at Ex-Im. The stalling of these deals alone has cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Restoring the Export-Import Bank to full strength is the single best thing Washington can do right now to build on the economic momentum of tax reform, shrink our trade deficits and level the playing field so American workers can win,” said Tim Keating, Boeing’s executive vice president for government operations.

After the bank’s board became empty last month, Jay Timmons, the chief executive of the National Association of Manufacturers, sent letters to every senator urging them to hold a vote on Mr. Trump’s nominees. Mr. Timmons warned that the lack of action was costing American jobs.

“Countries in Europe and beyond have been luring U.S. manufacturers to set up shop overseas to take advantage of foreign export financing because the U.S. system is effectively broken,” Mr. Timmons said. “Manufacturers in the United States have lost billions of dollars in deals, and tens of thousands of American workers have lost opportunities for well-paying jobs supported by the exports that the Ex-Im Bank could have helped secure.”

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