Opinion

Ex-Im Bank dispute risks S.C. jobs

For more than 50 years, Morrison Textile Machinery has been a major employer of Lancaster County, a region that is growing at a rapid pace. Lancaster is the fastest growing county in South Carolina and the 26th-fastest in the U.S. York County is the fourth-fastest growing in the state and 68th in the nation.

Thanks to the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank, companies such as Morrison have attracted global customers who have helped keep South Carolinians employed through good times and tough times. Morrison has remained a legacy for generations of local employees and the families they support. Like Morrison, several other companies in York County utilize the Ex-Im Bank, including Honeywell International in Fort Mill, Hydra Platforms Mfg. in Rock Hill and Northcourse Imports in York.

Just 12 days remain before the deadline to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. The Ex-Im Bank, an export credit agency that helps tens of thousands of American businesses sell their products overseas, will lose its charter unless reauthorized by Congress by June 30.

What’s disappointing is that some congressmen don’t understand the importance of the Ex-Im Bank and are using reauthorization as a political wedge issue. Ex-Im supported 1.3 million jobs across the U.S. in the last six years. And it has had a broader impact on the manufacturing sector, which totals more than 17 million jobs.

A vocal opponent of reauthorization has emerged in U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C. I think fellow South Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Sanford said it best at the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce’s Washington Night event in March that, though his philosophy is more in line with Mulvaney’s, he will support the Ex-Im Bank because it is so important to his district.

At that same event, Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., said, “What we have with the Ex-Im Bank is competition. I’ve been very impressed that it has not cost the taxpayers any money.” As he discussed businesses in his district that utilize the bank, specifically in rural areas, Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C., told business leaders, “I don’t think we can unilaterally disarm.”

He’s right. Other countries provide substantial support for their exporters.

There are at least 59 foreign export credit agencies around the world that work aggressively to support domestic industries. Unilateral disarmament will hurt U.S. exports and kill American jobs.

The Ex-Im Bank has financed $1 billion worth of South Carolina products since 2010. That’s why we need for Mulvaney to vote for its reauthorization. If it needs to be fixed or reformed, then let’s work with folks to make changes. But for the sake of South Carolina jobs, don’t just let it expire. It has been reauthorized by Congress multiple times, led by both Republicans and Democrats.

The Ex-Im Bank is not an open line of credit for major corporations; it fills the gap during credit crises and offers viable options for developing nations that don’t have other credit options. In short, it is key to trade.

The Ex-Im Bank does not provide government subsidies, so it is not “corporate welfare.” It does not compete with private lenders, so it doesn’t distort the free market. The Ex-Im Bank has a default rate of less than 1 percent, is transparent to the public and makes money for the American people, generating $2.7 billion for taxpayers in the last six years alone.

The Ex-Im Bank is important to South Carolina jobs. We need all of South Carolina’s congressional delegation to understand that.

Think of all the wonderful things that South Carolinians make and grow to share with the world, from airplane wings to textiles to locally harvested shrimp. The Ex-Im Bank is a tool to ensure that America and South Carolina stay economically competitive with the rest of the world.

Ted Pitts is president and CEO of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce.

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