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Michigan businesses push for renewal of the federal Export Import Bank

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Michigan businesses are taking part in a new push to resurrect a federal agency that helped American companies do business overseas.

The Export Import Bank of the United States was created under President Franklin Roosevelt. It has been the official export credit agency of the U.S. government. Its purpose is to provide financing and insuring foreign purchases of U.S. goods for customers unable or unwilling to accept the credit risk. 

But overtime, the Ex-Im Bank has drawn the ire of critics who see it as “corporate welfare.” Last month, Congress did not act to renew the bank’s charter.

Last week,Michigan Congressman Justin Amash penned an op-ed in which he celebrated the demise of the Export Import Bank.

“Ex-Im subsidizes the exports of mostly large, well-connected corporations. The top beneficiaries of Ex-Im’s support in 2014 included Boeing, General Electric, and Caterpillar — hardly companies in need of taxpayer assistance.”

Another big beneficiary is Midland-Based Dow Chemical.

The Ex-Im bank signed off on a nearly $5 billion loan that waskey to Dow’s 2012 deal in a Saudi petrochemical project. Dow officials say that deal created 18,000 jobs in the U.S.

Kevin Kolevar is Vice President, Government Affairs and Public Policy at the Dow Chemical  Company. He says the Ex-Im Bank has been very important to Michigan. He says, during a recent 7 year period, more than 60,000 jobs in Michigan were tied to overseas deals made possible by the Export Import bank.

“So that’s 2007 to 2014, a period I think most Michiganders would agree we were pretty desperate for job growth. Ex-Im was a big part of that,” says Kolevar.

It’s not just big multi-national corporations pushing to get the Ex-Im bank’s charter renewed.

Kyle McCree is with the Flint-Genesee County Chamber of Commerce. He admits he doesn’t know if any business has been lost in the month since Ex-Im’s charter lapsed.  But he says uncertainty about the bank’s future has been a problem.

“There’s a caveat that there’s this program…but it may not be around…might be there might not be there,” says McCree, “that just creates uncertainty that makes people less willing to invest in these types of investments and projects and sales.”

Flint Congressman Dan Kildee would like to see Congress re-charter the Export Import bank soon.

“Virtually every country on the planet, that is an industrialized nation that exports, supports their exports with export financing,” Kildee said last week, “with the exception of one and that’s the greatest economy on the planet, the United States of America. We can’t let that stand.”

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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