Revitalizing the Export-Import Bank
Trade finance will play a crucial role in President Barack Obama's goal of doubling US exports by 2015. Almost 90 percent of exports depend on trade finance in some form-direct credit, credit insurance, or loan guarantees. Even though official export credit agencies (ECAs), including the US Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank), play a small part in the whole scheme of export finance, they occupy a crucial niche. They are "lenders of last resort," taking risks shunned by the private market. Ex-Im Bank is up for reauthorization in 2011, so this is a good time to review its prospects and mandate. As new authorization legislation is drafted, the authors recommend that Congress address seven policy issues: (1) enlarge the Ex-Im Bank's funding level to the point where it can finance 5 percent of US exports of goods and services; (2) draw private banks to play a more active role in financing exports of small and medium-sized enterprises; (3) cut the local content requirement from the bank's current level of 85 percent to a maximum of 50 percent; (4) authorize the Ex-Im Bank to support both service components of merchandise exports and stand-alone services exports in a manner similar to the approach of other ECAs; (5) repeal the cargo preference requirement; (6) move the determination of "adverse economic impact" to the US International Trade Commission and limit the review to countries that are subject to antidumping duties, countervailing duties, and safeguard orders; and (7) use concerted pressure to bring China into the OECD Arrangement on Officially Supported Export Credits.