Fifty million dollars a day.
That’s how much a small group of U.S. senators is costing our economy as they block a vote on Mark McWatters’ nomination to the board of directors of the U.S. Export-Import Bank.
For more than 80 years, Ex-Im helped American manufacturers sell goods abroad by offering financing tools the private sector chooses not to offer. Companies using Ex-Im pay interest and fees, so it doesn’t cost taxpayers anything. Most years Ex-Im actually makes money, helping pay down our national debt.
In the past five years, Ex-Im supported $3 billion in S.C. exports for 67 companies, 35 of which are small businesses.
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But a few years ago, a small group in Congress decided to attack Ex-Im.
They claimed American businesses didn’t need Ex-Im to compete. But worldwide, there are about 85 government-backed export credit agencies. Why should American companies compete with one arm tied behind their back?
Opponents claimed that Ex-Im only helped large companies, but 90 percent of Ex-Im’s transactions directly benefit small and mid-sized companies, and large companies that benefit do business with small companies.
Take Boeing, which directly employs 8,000 South Carolinians. Every 787 Dreamliner is the product of a vast supply chain. Last year alone, Boeing partnered with 300 suppliers and purchased $355 million with S.C. suppliers and vendors.
Ex-Im is critical for many of Boeing’s foreign customers, who need that financing to buy 787s made here in South Carolina. Without a fully functioning bank, sales may be lost to foreign competitors, putting that entire supply chain at risk. Ex-Im is essential to ensuring we can continue to build airplanes in South Carolina.
Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott understood this when they voted to reauthorize Ex-Im. Unfortunately, that didn’t reinstate a fully functioning bank.
The law requires at least three Senate-confirmed directors to be in place for the board to approve certain transactions. Right now there are only two.
I encourage our S.C. senators to demand a vote on Mr. McWatters’ nomination. Every day they don’t, our economy pays the price: Fifty million dollars a day to be exact.
The writer is president and CEO of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, based in Columbia.