Pending an expected signature from President Obama on legislation passed by Congress, the U.S. Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank is back in business through 2019.
On December 3, both house of Congress passed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (also known as the highway bill) which included language to recharter the bank. Bipartisan efforts in both the House and Senate showed the Ex-Im had strong support despite the protestations of a small group of elected officials claiming the bank was corporate welfare and a drain on the Treasury.
The MTD and its Port Maritime Councils across the U.S. have been meeting with members of Congress since the charter expired at the end of June to point out how important it is to the U.S.-flag maritime industry. Cargo generated by the institution must be transported by U.S.-crewed, U.S.-flagged vessels.
Records show the bank supported 164,000 American private-sector jobs last year. Nearly 90 percent of the institution’s transactions went to small businesses. It supported $27.5 billion in U.S. exports at no cost to U.S. taxpayers.
During the debate for its renewal, President Obama pointed out that the Ex-Im Bank actually generated $7 billion for the U.S. Treasury over the last several years.
President Franklin Roosevelt chartered the Ex-Im Bank in 1934 to provide low interest loans for the export of American-made goods and products. Since its charter expired June 30, the institution was unable to conduct its regular business. Several companies announced during the period when the charter hadn’t been renewed that they were moving operations outside the United States, costing thousands of American jobs. Approximately 60 other countries have similar facilities to promote their goods around the world.
In additional maritime news, Congress passed and the President signed last month the National Defense Authorization Act which included a measure increasing to $3.5 million annually the stipend provided to each of the 60 vessels involved in the Maritime Security Program (MSP). Actual funding for MSP is expected to be included in a defense appropriations bill making its way through the House and Senate.
To be part of the MSP, U.S.-flag companies agree that militarily useful U.S.-crewed vessels and the infrastructure supporting them are available to the military in times of war or national emergencies. The MSP was enacted in 1996.