Keeping America Competitive in the World

April 25, 2012 By Joel Paque

The Export-Import Bank has become a hot button political issue in recent weeks over its impending reauthorization.  This agency is funded by the International Affairs Budget to provide financing support for U.S. companies looking to sell their goods overseas.  Proponents of reauthorization point to Ex-Im’s ability to help keep American companies competitive in the global market, especially when competing with state-backed enterprises that may operate at significantly lower costs. Opponents of reauthorization do so on grounds that they see it as corporate welfare the U.S. can’t afford during this time of record deficits.

Global companies today recognize expansion into new markets is critical to continued growth. In fact, new forecasts from the World Bank see economic growth in Africa accelerating by over 5%, which is greater than the 3% growth the U.S. is currently experiencing, underscoring that some of the best opportunities for investment are in the developing world.

With this growth come real gains in human development.  The same World Bank report found the percentage of the population living on less than $1.25 a day fell from 58% in 1999 to 47.5% in 2008. While almost half the population living in poverty is still an unacceptably high number, gains are being made, and continued economic growth can help to continue to raise more people out of extreme poverty when paired with investments in other essential sectors like health and education, as well as improvements in governance and rule of law. This in turn creates more opportunities for U.S. investment in the developing world by creating better conditions for business.

The Export-Import Bank, along with the U.S. Trade and Development Agency and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (also funded by the International Affairs Budget), help U.S. businesses succeed in overseas markets.  They are supported by investments in health, education and agriculture, which are essential in creating markets where there is greater transparency and rule of law.

These development programs benefit American companies as they seek to invest abroad, which ultimately helps create jobs here at home by leading to greater American exports.  While Congress debates the timing of reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, let’s recognize the principle that these investments are not only the right thing to do; they are the smart thing to do as they advance America’s economic interests and sustain American leadership in the world.