For want of a quorum, America's jobs are being lost

Peter Navarro
Key Points
  • Currently, 4 out of 5 voting member seats on the board of directors for the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) are vacant.
  • At the moment, EXIM has $40 billion in transactions sitting in its pipeline, awaiting a quorum.
White House National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro
Getty Images

Benjamin Franklin once said: "For want of a nail, the shoe was lost. For want of the shoe, the horse was lost."

To paraphrase Franklin, for want of a quorum at our Export-Import Bank, American exports are being lost. For want of those exports, America's jobs are being lost – by the hundreds of thousands.

The Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) is America's "export credit agency." Its mission is to support American jobs by facilitating the export of United States goods and services.

Since 2015, the EXIM board of directors has not had a quorum to do its job properly – four out of the five voting member seats are currently vacant.

The EXIM board does not have a quorum because the United States Congresor s has refused to confirm the nominees this administration has sent up to Capitol Hill.

These nominees are not being voted down. They are not even reaching the floor for votes that would surely confirm them. It is time for the congressional leadership to break this logjam.

Job creation

The costs of sidelining EXIM can be measured in the tens of billions of dollars of products we fail to export. These costs can also be measured by the thousands of jobs we fail to create when this country does not have a fully functioning export credit agency to compete with its counterparts around the world.

Here's the brutal truth: More than 100 other export credit agencies compete on behalf of their countries' exporters. And we are getting hammered – particularly by China, South Korea and the other countries in the G-7.

As of 2017, the export credit agencies of Japan and Korea had $187 billion in medium and long-term exposures; Canada, Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom had $306 billion; and China had an estimated $363 billion.

By comparison, America's EXIM has an exposure of about $70 billion -- about one dollar for every five of China's.

Some of EXIM's critics have accused it of corporate welfare.

However, when EXIM supports large American manufacturers, it is also nourishing thousands of small and medium-sized companies across the supply chains of America that support thousands of good paying manufacturing jobs.

Competition against others

And here's another brutal truth: The fight for exports in world markets is no longer just company versus company. It is also country versus country.

It's America's Boeing versus Europe's Airbus; America's Caterpillar versus Japan's Komatsu; and America's private sector corporations against wave after wave of China's state-owned and state-directed enterprises – Sinopec, Sinochem, CRRC, China Mobile, SAIC Motor, China Railway, China Aerospace Science and Technology, the list of China's national champions spans virtually every industrial and technology sector.

Since EXIM lost its quorum in 2015, the United States economy has lost $20 billion in overseas opportunities. Right now, EXIM has $40 billion in transactions sitting in its pipeline, just waiting for a quorum.

If these transactions were simply to move forward, they would support almost a quarter of a million American jobs.

As just one example, EXIM was set to finance $3.5 billion in United States exports for a major petrochemical facility in Egypt. Companies in Germany, China, the United Kingdom and Canada are now taking the work, and their export credit agencies are handling the financing.

A fully functioning EXIM

Meanwhile, critical nuclear projects using Westinghouse technology in Saudi Arabia, India and Poland are stalled while China, with its mercantilist Belt and Road Initiative, is running circles around us.

The United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer rightfully calls this "lack of a functioning" EXIM a "serious blow to the United States economy."

The Trump fiscal year 2020 budget "supports a fully functioning [EXIM] to implement reforms and help American exporters compete in an increasingly unfair global marketplace."

It's time for Congress to end its delaying tactics and get on the side of America's farmers, ranchers manufacturers, and workers.

Peter Navarro is the assistant to the president for trade and manufacturing. This article is based on his keynote speech at EXIM's 2019 annual conference in Washington, D.C.

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