* 'Competition not standing still'
* Temporary authorization expires on May 31
By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON, Feb 23 U.S. manufacturers
warned on Thursday of lost U.S. exports and jobs unless Congress
moves quickly to reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which
one conservative Republican group has branded as "corporate
"Our competition is not standing still and we can't either,"
Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of
Manufacturers, said just a few days after President Barack Obama
pushed for renewal of the nearly 80-year-old bank.
Timmons said big U.S. exporters like Boeing, as well
as many small and medium-sized manufacturers, relied on the Exim
Bank to help them make overseas sales by matching credit terms
provided by other state lending agencies in Europe, China,
Brazil and India.
The bank is now operating on a temporary extension that
expires on May 31. But manufacturers said Congress needed to act
in coming weeks to raise Exim's credit exposure cap, which is
expected to reach its $100 billion ceiling by late March.
At that point, the bank would be unable to extend new credit
guarantees or direct loans until some of its existing loan
commitments are repaid. A bill currently stalled in Congress
would raise the exposure cap to about $135 billion.
"We've been having lots of conversations with leadership,"
Timmons said, when asked if NAM felt comfortable that House of
Representatives Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader
Eric Cantor, both Republicans, support reauthorization. "I think
leadership on both sides understands the importance of Exim."
The conservative group Club for Growth, which is influential
with Tea Party Republicans, has urged lawmakers to vote against
reauthorization of Exim Bank. They charge the bank is corporate
welfare for big companies like Boeing that should be able to
finance their exports without it.
In addition, Delta Airlines has complained to
members of Congress that it is hurt by Exim Bank financing
because it allows foreign competitors to buy Boeing aircraft on
much better credit terms than it can obtain. Domestic companies
are not eligible for Eximbank programs to finance purchases of
"While we don't oppose reauthorization of the Exim Bank, our
main goal is to make sure our employees are treated fairly in
the process," Trebor Banstetter, a Delta spokesman, said.
BIGGER ROLE UNDER OBAMA
The bank has played a larger role in supporting U.S. exports
since Obama took office in January 2009.
That is due largely to the lingering effects of the global
financial crisis, which dried up other sources of export
financing. But Obama's goal of doubling exports by the end of
2014 has also increased the bank's activity.
After back-to-back record years, Exim's total credit
exposure is now more than $90 billion, close to the $100 billion
cap set by Congress.
Although about 40 percent to 45 percent of the dollar value
of Exim Bank loan and credit guarantee programs support Boeing
aircraft exports, about 85 percent of its transactions involve
small or medium-sized businesses.
Drew Greenblatt, president of Marlin, a steel wire
manufacturer in Baltimore, said he already felt a "chilling
effect" on his export sales because of the possibility that Exim
could have to stop making loans in four to five weeks.
If Exim financing is not available to match terms provided
by other state agencies, customers are "just going to stop
talking to me and buy from Germany," Greenblatt said.
Robert Patton, president of Patton Electronics in
Gaithersburg, Maryland, also said Exim was vital to his business
and expressed frustration that concerns raised by Delta might be
blocking reauthorization of the bank.
"It doesn't make sense to hurt all the small businesses
because Delta doesn't like the price it's getting on a plane,"