Following is the transcript of a CNBC interview with Fred Hochberg, Chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the US at the WEF India Conference.
All references must be sourced to a "CNBC Interview"
Interviewed by Martin Soong, Anchor, CNBC Asia Pacific
Martin Soong (MS): Talk to us about this issue of full functionality because you guys have literally been shut down for about six months now. President Obama's two nominees to your board directors to make a quorum didn't get to Congress. Congress squashed that which means if you do do any deals it's got to be below 10 million dollars which leaves a lot of big names the caterpillars of the world et cetera really strong. What is the state of play now?
Fred Hochberg (FH): Well President Obama in the White House worked on the continuing resolution that was the bill to keep government functioning after September 30th, to include a provision that would allow the existing members of the board - just two - to serve as a quorum. That did not make it into the continuing resolution. We have high expectation that we'll make it in the budget bill that will be passed after the election during the lame duck session. So I believe strongly we never know with the Congress but I believe strongly we'll be able to get that authority so we can get them fully functioning and make sure we support American workers in every exploit that they're trying to do.
MS: And this is the irony right because you do have strong bipartisan support to keep the export import bank going but there's a small cadre of I don't know who these guys? that don't want this to go through?
FH: Well we do - we had overwhelming bipartisan support we even had a majority of the Republicans in Congress to vote for us. But we had a small minority part of the Freedom Caucus that has a different view of what government should do. A different view of how much government should come to work alongside of business to win deals and put more jobs in America and they're able, to through legislative procedures, hold this thing up.
MS: So OK, this is a tricky question you're a U.S. official I know that. But I mean come November whether it's Trump or Clinton in the White House what does it mean for US Ex-Im Bank. But I mean under which presidency would the Ex-Im Bank have a better chance of a fully functioning as it were.
FH: Well, I think we're going to get fully functioning after the lame duck session. I have very high confidence that the provision - and Congress has two choices and they can do both, they can allow a quorum of two people to suffice or they can confirm the two people who have been nominated - so they have a very easy choice. They can do one or both. So we never are in a position again --- they've got to do something. You know I don't want to wade into politics. I'm a government official. I can say that I worked with Secretary Clinton extensively when she was secretary and I was chairman of the bank and she was very supportive of exports, understanding that exports are about creating good jobs and exports are about extending our economic statecraft and commercial diplomacy around the world. When we build things with other countries whether it's a solar project here in India or in build up air or rail transportation as you mentioned with GE, we actually become closer to each other. We build not just strategic allies but people to people, business to business and that makes for a much more durable relationship.
MS: So you mentioned alternatives here in terms of potential. This is potential for U.S. companies whether they're small businesses or you know the big cash cow those are the GEs of the world. These guys probably have one of the most aggressive plans to move faster into alternatives on the planet. Correct?
FH: Without question Prime Minister Modi upped an already ambitious renewable plan and made it the most ambitious I've ever seen. One hundred seventy five gigawatts of renewable power by 2022. That is unprecedented globally. That's going to mean more solar, more wind, more biomass, we manufacture a lot of that. In 2011 Ex-Im Bank was the largest financier of solar power outside of the country of India in that year. Now India's a lot and building its own economic and manufacturing base also reduced interest rates so they're able to do more of it on their own which is a good thing because a 175 is a lot of power. But we stand ready and that's probably what I'm here to do is to make sure that we make sure that American companies take advantage and can tap into that larger market.
MS: Terrific. OK. Something about the state of play with regards to big trade deals. I'm thinking here of the TPP lame duck session, I don't know if it's a coin toss whether or not it could come through but something like that passing and getting ratified would be very important for U.S. interests, U.S. business and also for the Ex-Im Bank.
FH: Without question. I mean you know when the first free trade agreements were done in the 90s - there were maybe a dozen when we passed NAFTA. Today there are six hundred trade agreements free trade agreements around the world. We really can't afford to sit on the sidelines and lose out because the rest of the world is moving quickly. Those 11 countries that are part of TPP, if we don't do TPP, China is ready to engage with them in a regular way. They have something called the R-CEP which is the regional co-operative educational program. So they're very much they're ready, ready to pounce in.
MS: Worst case scenario if TPP does not get ratified in the United States what happens? How bad is the downside?
FH: Well I don't know fully. I don't want to sort of go to them in a negative rabbit hole but I would say that it would not be good for the United States. It would not be good for our allies, who we've worked on. Ambassador Froman has worked very hard to bring all these 11 other countries together, forge an agreement that is very progressive, has a lot of environmental safeguards, labor safeguards. So I think there's great concern if that doesn't happen.