Export-Import Bank of the United States
|Formed||February 2, 1934|
The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) is the official export credit agency of the United States federal government. Operating as a government corporation, the bank finances and insures foreign purchases of United States goods for customers unable or unwilling to accept credit risk. According to its charter, the Ex-Im Bank does not compete with private sector lenders, but rather provides financing for transactions that would otherwise not take place because commercial lenders are either unable or unwilling to accept the political or commercial risks inherent in the deal. Its current chairman and president is Fred P. Hochberg.
The bank was established in 1934 by an executive order, and made an independent agency in the Executive Branch by Congress in 1945. It was last chartered for a three-year term in 2012 and extended in September 2014 through June 30, 2015. Congressional authorization for the bank lapsed as of July 1, 2015. As a result, the bank cannot engage in new business, but it continues to manage its existing loan portfolio.
The cost and effectiveness of the bank are controversial. While the Ex-Im Bank projects to save the US government $14 billion over 10 years, an alternative analysis from the Congressional Budget Office found that the program would actually lose about $2 billion over the same period, due in part to discrepancies in how credit risk is accounted for. Many conservative groups as well as liberals have been highly critical of the bank, and called for its continued closure. President Barack Obama was highly critical of the bank during his presidential candidacy, but has since become a supporter of the program.
The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) is a government agency that provides a variety of loan, guarantee, and insurance products intended to aid the export of American goods and services. The mission of the Bank is to create and sustain U.S. jobs by financing sales of U.S. exports to international buyers. The Bank is chartered as a government corporation by the Congress of the United States; it was last chartered for a three-year term in 2012. The Charter spells out the Bank's authorities and limitations. Among them is the principle that Ex-Im Bank does not compete with private sector lenders, but rather provides financing for transactions that would otherwise not take place because commercial lenders are either unable or unwilling to accept the political or commercial risk inherent in the deal.
The Ex-Im Bank's products aim to support export sales for any American export firm regardless of size. The bank's charter provides that Ex-Im Bank makes available "not less than 20%" of its lending authority to small businesses although they have often fallen short of the 20% threshold. In fiscal year 2013 however, 76% of the value of loans and guarantees went to the top 10 recipients.
Similar banks, known generally as export credit agencies (ECAs), are operated by 60 foreign countries. As the United States is a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) they conduct their activities by following OECD rules and principles. The goal is to permit exporters in various countries to compete on the basis of the quality of their goods and services, not on preferential financing terms. Countries outside the OECD, such as the China Exim Bank, Ex-Im Bank of Russia, Brazil, and India, do not require their ECAs to follow OECD rules.
The bank has offices in Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, New York, Miami, Atlanta, Houston, McKinney (Dallas), Orange County (California), San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.
|List of Ex-Im chairmen and presidents|
The bank was originally organized as a District of Columbia banking corporation by Executive Order 6581 from Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 2, 1934, under the name Export-Import Bank of Washington. The stated goal was "to aid in financing and to facilitate exports and imports and the exchange of commodities between the United States and other Nations or the agencies or nationals thereof", with the immediate goal of making loans to the Soviet Union. Roosevelt created a Second Export-Import Bank of Washington with Executive Order 6638 on March 9, 1934, with the specific aim to aid trade with Cuba. The Bank's first transaction was a $3.8 million loan to Cuba in 1935 for the purchase of U.S. silver ingots. The First and Second Export-Import Banks were combined in 1936 when Congress transferred the obligations of the Second Export-Import Bank to the first. Congress continued the bank as a government agency, using a series of laws between 1935 and 1943 to place it under various government departments, before making it an independent agency on July 31, 1945, with the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945. On March 13, 1968, further legislation changed the name to "Export-Import Bank of the United States". The Government Corporation Control Act of 1945 requires the Bank to be reauthorized by Congress every four to five years. Reauthorizations were approved in 1947, 1951, 1957, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1974, 1978, 1983, 1986, 1992, 1997, 2002, 2006, and 2012. Ex-Im Bank became a self-sustaining (self-funding) agency in 2007, though the loans remain backed by the government. On September 17, 2014, the House passed a bill that reauthorized the charter of the bank until June 30, 2015.
The Pan-American Highway runs from Alaska to Chile through 14 countries with important transportation links to nearly all of continental Latin America. The highway was constructed beginning in 1936 with the last phase complete in 1980.
Ex-Im Bank credits and loans supported construction of the Pan-American Highway in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile. In Paraguay, Argentina, and Bolivia Ex-Im Bank supported construction of highway spurs connected to the Pan-American Highway. Ex-Im Bank approved twenty credits to U.S. companies including Caterpillar, Koehring Co., Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing, The Galion Iron Works, and Thew Shovel to help build the highway.
Constructed between 1937 and 1938, the 717-mile Burma Road links Lashio in present-day Myanmar (previously Burma) to Kunming in Yunnan Province, China. Construction of the road began in 1937 at the start of the second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945). With Japan able to control port access in China and most of Southeast Asia, the Chinese built a road that would allow transportation of men and goods from a railhead at Rangoon that had access to Burma's ports. From 1939 to 1942 the Burma Road served as a lifeline for military goods and support in the fight against the Axis powers in the Far East.
The $25 million credit approved by Ex-Im Bank in December 1938 was crucial in ensuring that the supply route remained open by providing the transportation vehicles and support material to operate the new road and by providing China with purchasing power during WWII. An additional $20 million to the Universal Trading Corporation was approved in 1940. A 1939 journal article in Foreign Affairs noted that China used part of the $25 million to purchase 2,000 three-ton trucks from Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors.
Post-WWII reconstruction and the Marshall Plan
Ex-Im Bank played a critical role in the years between the end of Lend-Lease (September 1945) and the beginning of the Marshall Plan and the World Bank's first authorizations (May 1947 – 1948). At the end of WWII, it was recognized that the U.S. did not have a credit facility capable of handling the demand that would result from the cessation of hostilities. One of the major rationales behind the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945, the basis of Ex-Im's current charter document, was the necessity to dramatically increase Ex-Im's lending capacity to adequately respond to Europe's post-war reconstruction needs. The 1945 Ex-Im Annual Report predicated Ex-Im's role in the immediate post-WWII period: "the Export-Import Bank was to be the principal source of long-term dollar loans for an extended period of time." This assertion was based on the lack of interest by private capital in lending to foreign government buyers and delays in ratification of the Articles of Agreement for the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The Export-Import Bank Act of 1945 increased lending authority from $750 million to $3.5 billion, almost a fourfold increase to help address these shortfalls.
In 1945 and 1946 credit was offered to France, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Turkey, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Italy, Ethiopia, Greece, Poland and Austria to purchase equipment, facilities, and services from the United States. The financing was designed to aid reconstruction of the nations and to repair their import and export capability through the purchase of new machinery, currency exchange, and improvements and repairs to infrastructure and transportation systems.
First credits to post-Soviet nations
When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, U.S. companies were able to freely conduct business with Eastern Europe for the first time since the end of WWII. Ex-Im Bank was one of the first financial institutions to provide financing for exports to the former Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia and the newly independent nations that emerged after 1991. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush waived the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which had officially closed off trade with communist countries since 1975. This waiver opened all Ex-Im Bank guarantee and insurance programs to U.S. companies wanting to do business with the Soviet Union and many other former communist countries.
Ex-Im Bank reopened for business in Czechoslovakia in March 1990. On January 25, 1991, Ex-Im Bank approved the first transaction to Czechoslovakia since 1947. Financed by First Interstate Bank of Los Angeles, CA, the guarantee allowed Tonak Hat Company to purchase computers from a small U.S. company, Digital Equipment Corporation of Massachusetts. Since 1991, Ex-Im Bank has supported exports to 25 of the nations that emerged after the fall of the Iron Curtain.
First credit to India
After a visit to India in January 2015, President Obama announced that the Ex-Im Bank will finance $1 billion in exports of 'Made-in-America' products, the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation will lend $1 billion to small- and medium-sized rural enterprises and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency will commit $2 billion for renewable energy. Obama and Modi agreed on issues that had previously stopped U.S. companies from setting up nuclear reactors in India.
Supporters say that the bank is especially focused on trying to help small and medium size businesses expand their exporting capabilities. CEO and President of the National Association of Manufacturers, Jay Timmons stated: "The Ex-Im Bank plays a critical role in manufacturer's ability to export to new markets and keep up with growing global competition. The Bank supports nearly 290,000 export related jobs and each year is helping more and more small and medium-sized manufacturers grow their businesses and hire new workers. More than 85% of all Ex-Im transactions directly benefit small business exporters—the economic engine that powers our economy and job creation."
In an undated fact sheet compiled by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Oscar Ramirez, the President of a small business offering various products to the petroleum industry, gave his support for the Export-Import Bank: "We find the Ex-Im Bank very useful. The commercial banks will not lend us $1.7 million without the Ex-Im loan guarantee, and without the line of credit we would not be in business. All receivables are foreign and no commercial bank will lend against those receivables. We export tanks, dispensers, and signage for gas stations in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa. We employ 35 people—but couldn't do it without the Bank."
Jenny Fulton, the owner of Miss Jenny's Pickles, a small North Carolina food manufacturer, used Ex-Im's export-credit insurance to export her pickles to China. After only 3 years of business, Fulton and her business partner have expanded their business to 1,000 stores in the U.S. and 40 stores in China. By putting more emphasis on exporting in China she expects her export sales to increase by 400%. She comments that: "Ex-Im Bank's export-credit insurance enables us to offer terms to our foreign buyers, so they don't have to pay for the whole order at once...Our export sales have permitted us to hire our first full-time employee and four part-time employees, and with the new orders from China supports by Ex-Im's Express Insurance we hope to turn those part-time jobs into full-timers by the end of the year." Fulton's story was featured on a segment of the CBS-TV News program 60 Minutes.
Vice President of Finance from Air Tractor, David Ickert, has said that Air Tractor believes "the Export-Import Bank is essential to exports of U.S. products. For instance, in FY 2011, Ex-Im was involved with 3,751 transactions that supported nearly $42 billion in exports from more than 3,600 U.S. companies. Of those transactions, 3,247–87%—were with small-business exporters. All of those transactions added up to $6 billion in Ex-Im financing in FY 2011. The Ex-Im Bank Pays for itself (through the fees it charges to foreign buyers) and–above and beyond that–returns money to the U.S. treasury. From 2006 to 2010, Ex-Im Bank returned $3.4 billion to the Treasury. Ex-Im has maintained its incredibly low default rate (1.5%) through the recession and through several years of record growth." In addition, on behalf of Air Tractor, Ickert said: "Exports have definitely meant jobs in this rural part of Texas, and Ex-Im Bank has helped us provide the export financing to increase our exports and break into new markets."
President Obama said during the Bank's reauthorization battle in May 2012, that the Export-Import Bank plays a very important role in reaching his goal of doubling exports over 5 years. At the reauthorization ceremony President Obama stated: "We're helping thousands of businesses sell more of their products and services overseas, in the process, we're helping them create jobs here at home. And we're doing it at no extra cost to the taxpayer." When Obama was running for President in 2008, he stated that the Export-Import Bank had "become little more than a fund for corporate welfare."
The Bank has come under criticism for favoring special interests ahead of those of the U.S. taxpayer. These interests have included corporations such as Boeing or Enron as well as foreign governments and nationals (such as a 1996 $120 million low-interest loan to the China National Nuclear Power Corporation (CNNP). 65% of loan guarantees over 2007 and 2008 went to companies purchasing Boeing aircraft. In 2012, the Bank's loan guarantees became even more skewed, with 82 percent of them going to Boeing customers. There are many unseen costs created by the Export-Import Bank's subsidies, including artificially raising the price of new airplanes and potentially adding $2 billion to the deficit over the next decade.
Forbes contributor Doug Bandow wrote in 2014, "The agency piously claims not to provide subsidies since it charges fees and interest, but it exists only to offer business a better credit deal than is available in the marketplace. The Bank uses its ability to borrow at government rates to provide loans, loan guarantees, working capital guarantees, and loan insurance." If the normal principles of economics or finance are applied, then it is unlikely that the bank has profited and most unlikely that it makes the annual profit that it has stated, because the bank's calculations of profit fail to make proper adjustment for risk. Best practice in finance and economics, as well as in banking, is to adjust the cost of capital or discount rate to reflect risk, or, equivalently, to use a fair-value estimate. On this basis the criticism is that "This simple approach—which is based on a method outlined in a National Bureau of Economic Research paper by Debbie Lucas of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—suggests that the Ex-Im bank's long-term loan guarantee program actually provides guarantees at a loss for taxpayers, not a profit. Moreover, this analysis reveals that the Ex-Im bank's loan guarantees are made at sufficiently generous terms that borrowers receive subsidies of about 1% of the amount borrowed. That translates into a $200 million cost for taxpayers on the $21 billion in loans that the bank will make in 2012."
In February 2009, the Ex-Im Bank settled a seven-year-long legal proceeding brought by Friends of the Earth, other NGOs, and various American cities. The plaintiffs said that the Ex-Im Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation provided financial assistance to oil and other fossil fuel projects without first evaluating the projects' climate change impacts. In 2005, the plaintiffs were granted legal standing to sue, considered a landmark decision, because it is the first time that a federal court has specifically granted legal standing for a lawsuit exclusively challenging the federal government's failure to evaluate the impacts of its actions on the Earth's climate and U.S. citizens. In its settlement agreement, the Ex-Im Bank agrees to evaluate the carbon dioxide emissions as part of its determination for qualification for a project. However, Ex-Im Bank fossil fuel financing and associated greenhouse gas emissions grew swiftly after the settlement agreement, coinciding with Chairman Hochberg's tenure. Between 2009 and 2012, Ex-Im Bank fossil fuel financing grew from $2.56 billion to nearly $10 billion.
Environmental groups say that under the Obama Administration the Ex-Im Bank is on a "fossil fuel binge", which "makes a mockery" of President Obama's stated commitment to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. In December 2009, Ex-Im Bank Directors approved $3 billion in financing for the ExxonMobil-led Papua New Guinea Liquid Gas project in December 2009. The project has reportedly sparked violence and in April 2012, the Papua New Guinea government called in troops to quell opposition from villagers after a landslide linked to a quarry that had been used by the project killed an estimated 25 people.
In 2010, environmental groups criticized the Ex-Im Bank Directors for approving $917 million in financing for the 3,960 megawatt coal-fired Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project in India after initially rejecting the project on climate change grounds. Environmental groups say that in reversing the decision the agency's Chairman, Fred Hochberg and Board of Directors "caved in" to political pressure from Wisconsin politicians. In 2011, several environmental groups protested at Export-Import Bank headquarters, unsuccessfully urging Chairman Hochberg and Board of Directors to reject $805 million in financing for the 4,800 megawatt Kusile coal-fired power plant in South Africa, which environmental groups say is the largest carbon emitting project in the agency's history, which will not alleviate poverty but will emit excessive local air pollution, which health experts say causes damage the respiratory, cardiovascular, and nervous systems and deaths resulting from heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory diseases.
In 2012 three environmental organizations filed a lawsuit against Chairman Hochberg and the Ex-Im Bank for the agency's financing of two liquid natural gas projects being constructed inside the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The lawsuit alleges that Ex-Im Bank financing for the projects violates U.S. environmental and cultural heritage laws.
Conversely the Ex-Im Bank has also faced scrutiny for pursuing green energy projects. The Ex-Im bank provided 10 million dollars of loan guarantees to Solyndra in 2011, a company that ultimately went bankrupt. More recently the bank authorized 33.6 million dollars in loans to Abengoa, a Spanish Green energy company on which former Governor Bill Richardson sits on the board. As of May 2014, Richardson was also listed as a member of the advisory committee of the Export Import Bank. On the campaign trail in 2008, then candidate Obama called the bank "little more than a fund for corporate welfare"
At the beginning of September 2014, Republican-controlled House of Representatives stated that they would reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank before its charter expires on September 30, giving it until June 2015 as part of a package to fund federal agencies, which was countered by criticism of conservative groups for banks. Democrats and many Republicans say it supports middle-class American jobs through its funding to big companies. The banks' funding is a part of the strategic bill to prevent a government shut down and other strategic actions.
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