The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) joins members of both parties in applauding Congress’ passage of the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act of 2018 (BUILD Act) as part of the recent broader Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization package. The BUILD Act reorganizes the way that development funds are parceled out. This is important because it creates a counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a Chinese effort to solidify its global economic and strategic influence by dumping billions into investment projects in dozens of countries around the world.
Countering China’s influence is something Republicans believe is important. It’s something Democrats think is important. And it’s something that manufacturers think is important. Then it must be time for America to get serious by taking the most critical and obvious step next: let’s finally get the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank back up and running again.
For years now, the Ex-Im Bank has been effectively shuttered because the Senate has not taken action to fill vacancies on the board of directors. This is the agency that provides financing and insurance for American exports where there are no private-sector alternatives. Manufacturers and companies across the country depend on a fully functioning Ex-Im Bank to compete effectively with economic rivals across the globe—nearly all of which are backed by their own export credit agency.
China is a perfect example. Last year, China’s version of the Ex-Im Bank provided $45 billion in medium- and long-term support for projects around the world—more than the rest of the world combined. Given that, it’s no surprise that exporters in the United States continue to lose deals to China by the day, harming manufacturing industries and workers across the country.
Take Hoffman Equipment. Its $125 million deal to sell hundreds of pieces of heavy equipment to Cameroon has been scooped up by China because the financing exceeded what the Ex-Im Bank can greenlight while its board has this many vacancies. Musya Tumanyan, senior vice president at Hoffman, has been fending off attempts by China—backed by seemingly unlimited government financing—to steal even more contracts away from Hoffman. We must put an end to lost sales and lost opportunities that are hurting our manufacturing base.
That’s why the NAM has called repeatedly for the Senate to take immediate action to confirm Kimberly Reed as the leader of the Ex-Im Bank and deliver her a board quorum. That’s all that’s needed for the Ex-Im Bank to get back online. That’s all that’s necessary to start putting American exports back on a more level playing field with those of China and others. That’s it. Congress doesn’t need to pass a law. Congress doesn’t even need to vet these nominees through committee (it already happened). All that’s needed is for the Senate to simply vote on their confirmations before the full Senate. Up or down. Yes or no.
A fully functional Ex-Im Bank is yet another example of how Congress and the Trump administration can align economic security with national security, a key priority of the president’s National Security Strategy. Just as the BUILD Act stands up to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a fully functional Ex-Im Bank will help counter China’s use of its export credit agencies to put Chinese interests ahead of ours. Now is the time to get this done.