Export-Import Bank Head Touts Bank’s Benefits, Urges Charter Renewal

HOMEWOOD – U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus encouraged Alabama political and business leaders when he predicted Wednesday that the House of Representatives will extend the charter of the Export-Import Bank of the United States before it expires Sept. 30.

Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, who is retiring from Congress in January, said he expects the House to extend the bank’s charter temporarily and the new Congress to debate a long-term renewal in early 2015. “I remind people that the Ex-Im creates American jobs,” Bachus said.

News organizations later reported on a possible deal but House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas denied the reports of a short-term reauthorization of the government-sponsored international finance bank. 

Bachus and U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, and Birmingham Mayor William Bell spoke briefly at a luncheon featuring the Export-Import Bank’s chairman and president, Fred P. Hochberg.

The luncheon was sponsored by the Business Council of Alabama and the Birmingham Business Alliance. The BCA and BBA along with the Chamber of Commerce Association and thousands of other business organizations and businesses urge Congress to reauthorize the bank that provides vital export financing services to business.

“It’s important for businesses all over Alabama,” BCA Chairman Fred McCallum, president of AT&T Alabama, said. McCallum is immediate past chairman of the BBA.

Also attending were BCA President and CEO William J. Canary, CCAA President and CEO Jeremy Arthur, and BBA President and CEO Brian Hilson. Hilson is the CCAA’s chair-elect.

Attendees from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce included Moore Hallmark, Executive Director – Southeast Region, and Clark Thomason,  Manager, U.S. Chamber Southeast Region.

The bank support alliance that includes the U.S. Chamber and the National Association of Manufacturers urges businesses to urge their members of Congress to continue the bank.

Hochberg noted that the bank’s current charter expires at the end of September and he hopes Congress will either extend it for five years or with a continuing resolution extend it until the new Congress seated in January can take up the issue. “This is clearly about keeping people in the job,” Hochberg said.

Canary had sent a letter to Alabama news editors that was published by several organizations. It corrects incorrect information released by the bank’s opponents. “It sets the record straight,” Canary said.

The Ex-Im Bank as it’s called sells credit insurance for foreign transactions when commercial insurance isn’t available. The Ex-Im Bank is an independent, self-supporting government agency. “We do this at no cost to the taxpayer and we actually send money to the Treasury,” Hochberg said.

The bank backed $37.4 billion worth of U.S. imports in 2013, and from 2007 to 2014 the bank backed $788 million in Alabama exports for 82 different companies, supporting 4,000 jobs, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Most of the transactions involved small businesses.

Hochberg said deals between foreign companies can be more complicated than U.S. intrastate business transactions. “Whenever a country doesn’t pay, we collect on behalf of the business,” Hochberg said.

Hochberg said that 60 nations have export-import banks and businesses in those nations would like nothing better than to fill orders currently filled by American businesses. “We’re trying to level the playing field so you can compete on price and quality,” Hochberg said.

President Obama said he supports reauthorization of the bank’s charter. Reauthorization efforts received a boost when Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzer said she supported the bank.

-Dana Beyerle