Ray of hope for Ex-Im Bank

Trump indicates he's willing to name new board member, potentially unleashing billions in export investment

By: Chris Gillis
Photo: Mark Van Scyoc/Shutterstock
   There’s a glimmer of hope when it comes to unleashing a key financial vehicle for U.S. exporters wanting to aid potential buyers abroad.
   Earlier this month, President Donald Trump indicated to a small group of Capitol Hill senators that he’s open to reenergizing the U.S. Export-Import Bank.
   To do this, Trump said he would nominate a member of the Ex-Im Bank board, which if approved would give the bank the quorum of at least three board members to approve financing of greater than $10 million.
   “During our lunch, I specifically talked with the president about the need to get the Export-Import Bank up and running,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said in a statement last week. “It’s great news he agreed and said he would nominate someone to serve on the Ex-Im board very soon.”
   Heitkamp raised the urgency of reinvigorating the Ex-Im Bank during a Dec. 2 meeting with Trump in New York.
   The senator blamed the bank’s current lack of a quorum on Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., who has refused to hold a committee vote on the nominee to the Ex-Im Bank board. Opponents of the the bank believe it represents crony capitalism, while proponents say it provides an essential tool for exporters to help potential buyers (particularly those in developing nations) acquire the capital they need.
   Heitkamp noted that Ex-Im Bank has helped facilitate exports for business in North Dakota to the tune of $42 million since 2011, and has supported 633 jobs cross the state.
   For example, she said Fargo, N.D.-based Case New Holland has a dealer in New Jersey, Hoffman Equipment, that has an $80 million deal to sell equipment to the government of Cameroon. But the only way that Cameroon can afford the deal is by using financing from the U.S. Ex-Im Bank. If the deal falls through, facilities in three other states, including the Fargo plant, will lose that work, she warned.
   Since the Ex-Im Bank’s reauthorization by Congress in December 2015, it has operated without a board quorum to approve financing larger than $10 million. It’s estimated that more than $30 billion worth of deals are now held up before the bank, which encompasses many prospective multi-million dollar export deals to developing markets.
   The Adam Smith Project took an in-depth look at the Ex-Im Bank in January.