Dollar’s Rise Threatens Manufacturing Recovery

Greenback surges to 14-year high in wake of Trump win and Fed move, making U.S. goods more expensive abroad

 By ANDREW TANGEL and JOSH ZUMBRUN WSJ.com

An employee works on the interior of a Boeing Dreamliner 787 in North Charleston, S.C. Boeing last week cited 'fewer sales opportunities and tough competition' when it laid out plans for further layoffs. An employee works on the interior of a Boeing Dreamliner 787 in North Charleston, S.C. Boeing last week cited ‘fewer sales opportunities and tough competition’ when it laid out plans for further layoffs. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG NEWS

The U.S. currency, which has strongly appreciated over the past two years, surged to a 14-year high in the wake of Donald Trump’s election and the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise interest rates, adding a wrinkle to the president-elect’s pledge to boost factory employment.

Certainly, a strengthening dollar is a sign of rising optimism for the U.S. economy as the stock market also soars to new highs. Prospects of higher inflation and rising interest rates encourage investment in U.S. assets, reflecting growing hopes for better returns.

A strengthening dollar increases the currency’s purchasing power: If imports are cheaper, U.S. consumers would have more money to spend. That in turn could boost retail sales, a key driver of economic growth, and engender more confidence in the U.S. overall.

However, while good for U.S. consumers and companies that purchase components abroad, the dollar’s rise promises to hit U.S. manufacturers reliant on sales in overseas markets.

Many have started to dial back revenue forecasts and look for ways to cut costs. 3M Co. and United Technologies Corp. have signaled a strong dollar could make it harder to boost sales in 2017.

Manufacturing here in the U.S. has become a lot more challenging than we’d anticipated.

—Neal Keating, Kaman’s chief executive

Kaman Corp., a Bloomfield, Conn.-based maker of airplane parts, has seen its European rivals’ prices drop as the euro declined against the dollar. To compete, Kaman has invested in facilities in Germany, and acquired a company with operations in the Czech Republic.

“Manufacturing here in the U.S. has become a lot more challenging than we’d anticipated,” said Neal Keating, Kaman’s chief executive.

Some dealers of Harley-Davidson Inc. motorcycles and Caterpillar Inc.’s bulldozers and excavators are bracing for the companies’ Japanese rivals to capitalize on the yen’s weakness against the dollar to undercut them on price. Caterpillar has said the yen’s weakness makes competition harder. Harley declined to comment.

In interviews, several business leaders said Mr. Trump’s pledges to promote business would more than counter the sting of a stronger dollar, especially if there are lower taxes and lighter regulatory burdens. They are hopeful Mr. Trump’s plan to overhaul infrastructure will spark economic growth, and that higher domestic sales could make up for any decline in exports.

“There’s bigger fish to fry,” said Mike Haberman, president of Ohio-based construction-equipment maker Gradall Industries Inc., which exports about 20% of its products. “I’m not panicked about the dollar.”

Jerry Johnson, president of the farm, ranch and agriculture division of Blount International Inc., a Portland, Ore., maker of outdoor products, said the strong dollar may be offset by declining import prices. About 50% of the components used in Blount’s products—they include mowers, log splitters and rotary cutters—come from overseas, Mr. Johnson said.

The dollar has been relatively weak against most of the world’s major currencies over the past decade. This helped U.S. exports rebound swiftly following the financial crisis.

By the end of 2010, exports reached record levels and continued to grow, hitting $598 billion per quarter in 2014. Employment in manufacturing began to recover, and optimism grew the U.S. could be entering a manufacturing renaissance.

The dollar has since risen sharply against currencies such as the yen and the euro. Meanwhile, the British pound dropped in the wake of the country’s June vote to leave the European Union. Earlier this month, the U.S. Federal Reserve raised rates, and hinted at more tightening next year.

The WSJ Dollar Index, which measures the U.S. currency against 16 others, hit a 14-year-high last week.

Bond yields have been rising amid expectations of more growth and inflation during Mr. Trump’s administration. The dollar rally could undermine his agenda by making exports more expensive and imports cheaper.

Collateral Damage

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Trump transition team officials didn’t respond to a request for comment.

For some companies, a stronger dollar will likely limit interest in expanding domestic manufacturing.

China’s yuan has fallen to its lowest level against the dollar in eight years, a move that could entice manufacturers to keep factories there rather than following in the steps of those that have brought some operations back to the U.S.

Mexico’s peso is down 13% against the dollar since the election, making it more tempting to move U.S. factories south of the border, despite Mr. Trump’s vows to punish firms that shift jobs abroad.

Emerson Electric Co. last week said the stronger currency worsened the extent of its orders’ decline from September through November by 2 percentage points. Overall, they fell by 7%.

Boeing Co., the nation’s largest exporter, last week cited “fewer sales opportunities and tough competition” when it laid out plans for further layoffs at its commercial-airplane unit next year after cutting staff by 8% in 2016.

Boeing didn’t mention currency fluctuations. The strengthening dollar has helped rival Airbus Group SE, which for years wrestled with an appreciating euro. Boeing declined to comment. An Airbus spokesman said the tailwind the company gets from the dollar is muted because 40% of its plane parts are purchased from the U.S.

Many manufacturers have begun to reduce their workforces; employment in manufacturing fell by 51,000 from January 2015 through November 2016, according to Labor Department data.

Ben Herzon, senior economist at Macroeconomic Advisers, an independent economic forecasting firm, conducted a simulation for The Wall Street Journal to illustrate how a further 10% increase in the strength of the dollar would ripple through the U.S. economy.

Over the next three years, companies would gradually adjust, by among other things boosting capacity at foreign plants while reducing at home, changing their supply chain or increasing the use of automation.

If the dollar doesn’t strengthen further, inflation-adjusted gross domestic product would cumulatively rise by 6.3% over the next three years. If it strengthens by a further 10%, that growth would be 1.8 percentage points lower, or 4.5%, according to Macroeconomic Advisers’ simulation.

The pain of a further 10% dollar rise would be especially concentrated in U.S. factories. Manufacturing production would be 3.6 percentage points lower under a strong dollar, inflation-adjusted imports would be 3.6 percentage points higher, and real exports from the U.S. to the rest of the world would be 6.2 percentage points lower.

Initially, U.S. consumers would stand to benefit by paying lower prices for imported goods.

“It’s good for consumers, as long as they’re still working,” said Mr. Herzon. As time goes on, this benefit will also be offset by the job loss in the manufacturing sector, he said.

Write to Andrew Tangel at Andrew.Tangel@wsj.com and Josh Zumbrun at Josh.Zumbrun@wsj.com

Shutdown of U.S. Ex-Im Bank Puts Companies in a Financing Bind

IT-USExportsReprint_Page_2
Ethiopian Airlines had to scramble at the last minute this summer when it needed to pay for a plane it ordered from Boeing Co. MMBAMM years ago.

The East African carrier got the aircraft last month but, instead of owning it, the airline is leasing the plane from a bank, said Chief Executive Tewolde Gebremariam. It couldn’t secure a loan for the purchase because it lacked a financing guarantee from the U.S. Export-Import Bank.Amid a clash over spending priorities, congressional Republicans effectively shut down the U.S. Ex-Im Bank by failing to reauthorize the agency at the end of June. That means the bank can’t make new loans or provide loan guarantees to foreign companies so they can buy American products and services. And American companies can’t renew their export-credit insurance policies.

The shutdown was a blow to many companies in the U.S. and abroad that are fighting for revenue in a sluggish global economy. Many foreign companies like Ethiopian Airlines are looking to do business with trusted American suppliers, while U.S. companies are searching abroad for new customers.

A strong dollar and weaker growth hamper those efforts. U.S. exports of goods and services were down 3.5% from a year earlier in the first seven months of 2015. Exports fell 3.2% in August, according to the Commerce Department.Declining exports, combined with a lack of U.S. Ex-Im Bank funding, is “a double-whammy,” said David Ickert, finance chief of Air Tractor Inc., which makes small aircraft for the agriculture industry. Softer prices for crops such as soybeans have growers in places like Brazil and Argentina ordering less equipment, he said.Air Tractor, based in Olney, Texas, typically uses export-credit insurance from the U.S. Ex-Im Bank. Foreign customers typically account for over half of the company’s sales, but Mr. Ickert expects that figure to drop to 30% this year. “There are definitely some multiple headwinds we’re facing right now,” he said.

Many foreign companies say they can’t secure financing from commercial banks without some kind of government-backed financing or guarantee, which most developed countries offer through their own Ex-Im banks.Ethiopian Airlines’s Mr. Gebremariam said he hopes to buy more than two dozen planes from Boeing in coming years, but will consider going to European rival Airbus Group SE if the U.S. Ex-Im Bank stays out of business.“There’s definitely an impact on our expansion and growth,” he said. “Some economies in Africa are considered high risk, so banks wouldn’t be able to finance us directly without Ex-Im backing.”

In a letter sent to Boeing officials last week, Comair Ltd., an aviation company based in South Africa, said a continued lack of U.S. Ex-Im Bank support would force the airline to borrow in foreign currency. But doing so, given the volatility of its local currency, the rand, would “expose Comair to too great an exchange-rate risk on its balance sheet,” said CEO Erik Venter.Boeing said such sentiments reflect private conversations it has been having with customers for months. “They want to keep buying American, but the uncertainty over the future of the Export-Import Bank is forcing them to consider other options,” said a company spokesman. Boeing, a strong proponent and major beneficiary of the bank, expects it to reopen. But an extended shutdown would prompt Boeing to consider moving work offshore to compete for contracts that require Ex-Im backing, Chairman Jim McNerney said last month.General Electric Co. MMGEMM is already doing so, to make it easier for its customers to use Ex-Im funding from other countries, such as Canada, France and Hungary. In Hungary, where GE has manufacturing facilities, the export-import bank is providing a loan to Bresson AS Nigeria Ltd., a power-generation company, to buy GE turbines for new plants in Nigeria, said Barakat Balmelli, a financial adviser to Bresson on the deal.

Hungarian officials are looking to increase their level of new export-import-related lending to €1 billion, or about $1.1 billion, by the end of the year. Last month the government expanded agreements between its Ex-Im Bank and local Hungarian commercial banks.

Ms. Balmelli said Bresson chose to work with Hungary’s Ex-Im Bank partly because of the U.S. shutdown. “You have other countries changing their policies to accommodate these new business opportunities while the U.S. is just fiddling about,” she said.61ae8-exim-bank1

Last week, the U.S. Ex-Im Bank’s Republican supporters moved to bring the bill reauthorizing the bank to a vote. The procedure would force a vote on the bill, which is backed by nearly all Democrats and many Republicans, later this month.

Meanwhile, small U.S. companies, which can’t relocate or move jobs overseas, are feeling the brunt of the bank’s closure. W.S. Darley & Co., a maker of firetrucks and related gear, said the shutdown already has cost it a contract worth about $7 million.

The customer’s loan didn’t get final Ex-Im Bank approval, and since W.S. Darley’s contract was contingent on that financing, “that sale could just be gone,” said Chief Operating Officer Peter Darley.

With projects falling out of the pipeline, employees at the Itasca, Ill., company are worried about their jobs, he said. “It hurts us. We had a lot of good momentum,” he said, referring to building firetrucks for foreign cities and towns.

Featured Image -- 2741“We might be losing projects we’re not aware of,” he said. “If a buyer knows that Americans don’t have an open Ex-Im, they might not even knock on the door, or invite us to the bid table.”

Write to Kimberly S. Johnson at Kimberly.Johnson@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/shutdown-of-u-s-ex-im-bank-puts-companies-in-a-financing-bind-1444093160

(Tea Party) Republican Job Killers and the Export-Import Bank

You know things are bad, when I have to cite a left leaning newspaper such as the NY Times, as an information source bashing Republican Party.  Yet, the author of the OP-ED below, does make some valid points.  Rather than go into additional explanations on this issue, I simply would like to pose a few questions to let the readers think and decide for themselves. These questions will address both pros and cons of the issue. Answers will be published in the next post.

  • There are overwhelming votes in both the House and the Senate to pass the Ex-Im reauthorization, yet a hand-full of congressmen from the Tea Party is blocking the reauthorization bill in the committee. What does this say about our Democratic process?
  • Whose interests are these Tea partiers serving?
  • Why can’t large companies such as Boeing and GE finance exports themselves rather than lose orders?
  • What would be an estimated annual impact of the Ex-Im shutdown?
  • Since US Ex-Im financing represents less than two percent of annual US exports, why do we care if the Bank goes away?

Republican Job Killers and the Export-Import Bank

Joe Nocera, NY Times OP-ED COLUMNIST

“At a time when we want to compete around the world, it is hard to believe what is happening in the U.S. Congress,” said Jeff Immelt, the chief executive of General Electric.

“The ultimate irony is that we are on the verge of an American manufacturing renaissance,” bemoaned Jim McNerney, the chairman of Boeing. “Yet this action is causing companies to start looking outside the U.S. instead.”

“People complain that the bank only helps big companies,” said Doug Oberhelman, the chairman and C.E.O. of Caterpillar. “A lot of our suppliers are small. They don’t export, but we do. And if we aren’t exporting, they aren’t selling to us.” He added, “I find it staggering that we would put highly paid export-oriented jobs at risk.”

What Oberhelman finds “staggering,” Immelt finds “hard to believe” and McNerney finds ironic is the refusal of Republican extremists — led by the House Financial Services Committee’s chairman, Jeb Hensarling — to allow a vote on the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, a vote that would pass in a landslide. The Ex-Im Bank, which insures and sometimes finances export sales, had to stop making deals at the end of June, when its reauthorization deadline came and went.

Although the Ex-Im Bank still exists, it has been reduced these days to managing its portfolio, rather than underwriting or insuring new deals. According to Boeing, its foreign rival Airbus, which can tap not one but three export credit agencies, is spreading the word to potential aircraft customers that Boeing can no longer compete when bids require sovereign insurance. That is hardly the only such example.

The damage this is doing to our economy is starting to become clear. In recent weeks, Boeing, America’s largest exporter in dollar volume, made two sobering announcements: first, that Asia Broadcast Satellite canceled an $85 million satellite contract expressly because there was no Ex-Im support. (Boeing is hoping to renegotiate.) More recently, Kacific, a Singapore-based satellite company, told Boeing not to bother bidding on a satellite contract, again because of a lack of Ex-Im financing.

As a result, McNerney told me, “layoffs in the hundreds” have taken place in Boeing’s satellite division.

This week, it was G.E.’s turn to make Ex-Im-related news. First, it said it would move 400 jobs to France to manufacture — and export — gas turbines, and 100 final assembly jobs to Hungary and China. Then it said it would create a new turboprop center in Europe that would employ up to 1,000 people. In both cases, G.E. said the moves would allow the company to take advantage of European export credit agencies.

When I spoke to Immelt, McNerney and Oberhelman, whose company also uses the agency, they all sounded astonished that this important tool, which they need to compete with companies abroad, was being taken away for purely ideological reasons.

“If no other country had export financing, that would be one thing,” said Immelt. “But that’s not where the world is. What you are really doing is helping Siemens and China Rail” — companies that rely heavily on their countries’ export financing.  Immelt told me that G.E. currently has $11 billion in potential deals that require export credit agency financing. That’s real money, even for General Electric.

McNerney pointed out that many big deals require export financing for the bid to even be considered. He also noted, ominously, that 10 to 15 percent of Boeing’s aircraft exports are dependent on Ex-Im support. Losing that business would be devastating for the company, and its employees.

When asked about the accusation from the right that the Ex-Im Bank is a classic case of government picking winners and losers, Oberhelman said that “if this doesn’t change, we’re all going to be losers.”

The anti-Ex-Im Bank faction is having a glorious time mocking the G.E. and Boeing announcements. A spokesman for Heritage Action for America, the conservative think tank leading the charge, described G.E.’s moves as “multinational crony capitalism.” Hensarling issued a statement claiming Boeing could finance the satellite deals itself to prevent layoffs; “it just chooses not to.”

And an unidentified financial services committee staffer told Politico that the loss of 500 G.E. jobs was a drop in the bucket for a company that employs 136,000 people in the U.S.

That heartless quote reminded me of an anecdote in “Confidence Men,” Ron Suskind’s book about the Obama administration’s financial team during the president’s first term. Some of Obama’s top advisers wanted to let Chrysler fail. But in a critical meeting, Ron Bloom, a former adviser to the United Steelworkers who was a member of Obama’s Auto Task Force, said, “Mr. President, these are the reasons we can’t kill this company. The damage to these communities and people will never be undone.”

Chrysler was ultimately saved because the president’s advisers suddenly understood that it was their role to save jobs, not to sacrifice them on the altar of economic purity. What will it take for the Republicans to come to the same realization.

GE to Move Turbine Jobs to Europe, China Due to EXIM Bank Closure

Reuters

General Electric, GE

 (Reuters)

General Electric Co (GE) said on Tuesday that it will move 500 U.S. power turbine manufacturing jobs to Europe and China because it can no longer access U.S. Export-Import Bank financing after Congress allowed the agency’s charter to lapse in June.

GE said that France’s COFACE export agency has agreed to support some of the industrial giant’s global power project bids with a new line of credit in exchange for moving production of 50-hertz heavy duty gas turbines to Belfort, France, along with 400 jobs. GE also said in a statement that 100 additional jobs will move from the United States to Hungary and China.

The company said it is now bidding on $11 billion worth of international power projects that require export credit agency financing, including some in Indonesia.

The U.S. jobs will be moved from facilities in South Carolina, New York, Texas and Maine, but no U.S. facility will close, a GE spokeswoman said.

GE Vice Chairman John Rice said the company would soon announce agreements with other foreign export credit agencies to finance GE products.

“If the EXIM bank were open, it would be business as usual,” GE Vice Chairman John Rice told Reuters in a telephone interview.

 Given the bitter fight in Congress over EXIM’s future, Rice said that GE cannot afford to wait and must make other long-term financing arrangements for large industrial projects.

“If EXIM isn’t going to happen, or it’s going to be a regular fight to be reauthorized, we’ve got to make other plans,” he said.

Conservative Republicans in Congress who say that EXIM represents “corporate welfare” and “crony capitalism” successfully blocked renewal of the 81-year-old export credit agency’s charter at the end of June.

EXIM supporters have thus far been unsuccessful in attaching renewal to other legislation, but new efforts are expected to be made this autumn as Congress considers government “must-pass” agency funding, a transportation bill and an increase in the federal debt limit.

GE last year vowed to add 1,000 jobs in France to gain the blessing of the French government for the U.S. conglomerate’s acquisition of the power business of France’s Alstom. GE won European regulatory approval for the deal last week, and expects it to close by the end of the year.

GE is also seeking to wring out $3 billion in cost savings as it combines with Alstom, including by reducing overlap and consolidating manufacturing operations.

In its statement, GE said the job move “reinforces the need for Congress to promptly reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import Bank.”

Aerospace giant Boeing Co (BA) has also said it was considering moving work overseas due to uncertainty over the future of the EXIM bank.

(Additional reporting by Lewis Krauskopf in New York; Editing by Eric Walsh)

Businesses fume as Congress lets Export-Import Bank stay dead

“We’re at a loss how Congress can literally go on vacation and just say, ‘Good luck, guys.’”

Boeing President Jim McNerney is pictured. | Getty

That’s all a result of the demise of the Export-Import Bank, which is forcing companies large and small to ponder potentially wrenching changes as Congress prepares to leave town without acting on efforts to resurrect it. The August recess means that any rescue is at least a month away, if not longer, leaving export-dependent businesses to get by without the array of assistance the New Deal-era agency offers.

“We’re really frustrated,” said Tyler Schroeder, a financial analyst at the 265-employee company Air Tractor, which makes firefighting and agricultural aircraft and is based in the 3,000-person town of Olney, Texas. “We’re at a loss how Congress can literally go on vacation and just say, ‘Good luck, guys.’”

Gary Mendell, president of trade financier Meridian Finance Group, said export credit agencies in other countries are already taking advantage of Ex-Im’s expiration to lure away business from U.S. companies. “They’re gleeful about it, and I don’t blame them,” Mendell said. “Those foreign competitors are going to customers in other countries and saying, ‘Hey, you don’t know if your U.S. supplier is even going to be able to ship to you and give you the payment terms they’re promising in their quote, because look what’s happening with Ex-Im Bank.’”

Ex-Im’s federal authorization expired July 1, to the cheers of conservative lawmakers who view it as a tool for crony capitalism. Already, credit insurance policies are starting to run out for a number of the roughly 3,000 small businesses that rely on them to be able to export.

Still, some U.S. companies are continuing to compete for overseas bids that will ultimately require Ex-Im backing, in the hopes that the agency will be renewed before the deals fall through, National Association of Manufacturers Vice President Linda Dempsey said in an interview.

That revival won’t happen anytime soon, though. Ex-Im backers had been hoping that Congress would resurrect the bank as part of this Friday’s drop-dead deadline for extending the life of the Highway Trust Fund. But the House left town Wednesday for the August recess after passing a three-month highway extension that includes no rescue for the bank.

The fight is far from over, but lawmakers won’t be able to act on Ex-Im until September at the earliest, or possibly as late as December.

Some big companies may choose not to wait. Boeing Chairman Jim McNerney said during an appearance Wednesday that the giant plane manufacturer and defense contractor is considering moving parts of its operations to other countries, where they could take advantage of those nations’ equivalents to Ex-Im to continue selling products overseas.

“We’re actively considering now moving key pieces of our company to other countries, and we would’ve never considered that before this craziness on Ex-Im,” McNerney said.

McNerney added that he might have “made the wrong decision” years ago in trying to keep production in the U.S., given the newly uncertain politics surrounding export financing in Washington. “People just playing politics — they’re not connected to the real world anymore,” he said.

The Exporters for Ex-Im Coalition put out yet another plea for renewal this week, noting that deals approved only on July 27 for the past five years amounted to $30.2 million for 34 businesses — deals that could no longer happen today.

The agency’s supporters in Congress expressed frustration too. “What we’re asking for is a vote,” Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.) said during a Rules Committee markup Tuesday where an attempt to attach Ex-Im language to the transportation bill failed in an unusually close 6-7 vote. “Bad things will happen if we don’t get to this. It will start first with small businesses.”

Heck also argued that “two major manufacturers in this country” will move production offshore without the agency, the other being an apparent reference to General Electric.

But Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a leading conservative critic of the bank, sees even a prolonged expiration for the bank as a victory.

“This is great news for families and taxpayers,” he told POLITICO in a statement. “Every day that goes by without the Ex-Im Bank being resurrected means it is more likely that it permanently ends. … This is the kind of example of good governance that I am excited to tell my constituents about during the August recess.”

Heritage Action Chief Executive Officer Michael Needham similarly hailed Ex-Im’s expiration as “the culmination of a three-year effort waged by conservatives against a vast, well-funded network of consultants, lobbyists and big-government interest groups.” In a statement, he also praised House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in particular for his efforts.

“If the Republican Party hopes to attract voters who gravitate to a message built around opportunity for all and favoritism to none, GOP leaders must follow his lead and preserve this historic policy victory,” Needham said.

The Export-Import Bank guarantees loans for foreign companies interested in buying U.S. exports, and also runs programs such as providing insurance and credit to help small businesses secure new customers and working capital.

Critics like Jordan argue that Ex-Im doesn’t create jobs, it merely shifts jobs to export-related sectors. They also emphasize that the private sector could step in to fill the void the bank’s death creates, pointing to statements by Boeing executives admitting as much.

But Rami Touma, president of Houston-based oil equipment exporter CECA Supply & Services, said Ex-Im’s services are critical to his business’s ability to sell products to Algeria, its major source of income.

The national Algerian oil company requires exporters to post a 10 percent performance bond, which is held until the job is done. And in the past year, Touma’s 30-employee company had its best year ever, with $60 million in sales.

“We do not have the ability to just not have $6 million accessible to us,” Touma said. “So Ex-Im, they put the money in for us, and we pay a fee.” He said Ex-Im can facilitate this because it has the expertise and access to State Department information to allow it to judge the reliability of a foreign buyer, something a traditional bank might not be able to do.

For smaller companies, “in any given year, our projects in North Africa represent 30 to 50 percent of their yearly sales,” he said. His policy with Ex-Im is locked in for roughly the next year, but if the agency stays dead, CECA would lose 30 to 40 percent of its sales “right off the bat.”

Similarly, Schroeder’s Texas crop-dusting manufacturer could lose up to one-fourth of its sales after losing the bank’s credit insurance, he said Wednesday.

“We’re scrambling now, trying to find a way to facilitate our sales throughout the rest of this year,” he said. “That’s going to take a lot of risk on our part of the company, and it’s going to take — it’s going to be a big expense for us.”

Schroeder added: “We can only do this for so long. … When it comes to next year’s export season, we don’t know. We don’t have an answer for how we’re going to fill the gap that’s been left by Congress’ blatant disrespect for business, in my opinion.”

BCH Trading, a lumber shipper from Arkansas whose working capital guarantee with Ex-Im expires in April, would have to find an investor to help it access money needed as collateral for business deals, President Randy Barsalou told POLITICO. Private banks won’t lend against the promise of money by a foreign buyer, which leaves small businesses with few options, such as putting up their own assets as collateral.

“It’s almost like going out on the street and finding someone [to invest in us],” he said. “I’ve been an Ex-Im user since 2002, and when we first started it was ’98. … We met with people to look at the possibilities of what would be available, and that issue was always there. ‘Oh, you’re an exporter.’”

Mendell said small companies looking to export don’t have other options for replacing many of Ex-Im’s services. That’s because the volume of their exports is too small or the market risk is too great for so meager a transaction.

“We don’t have any alternative in the private sector to bring them to,” said Mendell, whose company provides export credit insurance for around 1,000 companies, of which 550 have insurance policies through Ex-Im. “It doesn’t exist.”

For almost all of Mendell’s clients, he was able to ensure the renewal of Ex-Im-backed insurance policies that were expiring in July and August, but those whose policies are up in September are already facing problems. The insurance allows the U.S. exporter to give the foreign buyer payment terms, so it can take 30, 60 or 90 days to pay for the shipment. But if the exporter is selling something like medical equipment that will take 90 days to manufacture, Mendell said, then the insurance wouldn’t be available when it’s ready to ship.

“If you’ve got a customers for Christmas season, you’re shipping in September/October,” he said, so many of his clients are having to cut back sales.

Still, Heritage Action emphasizes in its publications that just 0.52 percent of small-business exporters, not even getting to small businesses overall, used the agency’s services in 2012.

Also in the balance are the jobs of roughly 430 Ex-Im employees, none of whom have yet been furloughed because the bank still has funding and work to do.

Ex-Im Chairman Fred Hochberg told POLITICO last week that his agency is keeping busy — including processing $25 billion in loans. “That’s almost a year’s worth of work,” he said, in response to a question about whether the agency would try to put off furloughs as long as possible.

“We’re trying to accelerate our work on [Freedom of Information Act] requests, which have doubled this year,” as well as reports for the inspector general, he said. “I actually have more people to work on that right now than I would otherwise, so I want to try to get that done.”

But if Congress ultimately doesn’t renew the bank, it’s clear that Ex-Im intends to stick around until the end of the longest loan guarantee, which could be as long as 18 years.

So, expired or not, the bank will likely be around for a while. But Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.) warned that if the agency’s expiration continues into December or January, the bank could be hard to ever revive.

“That’s why this has got to happen now,” he said. “It should’ve already happened.”

Kathryn A. Wolfe contributed to this report.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/07/businesses-fume-as-congress-lets-ex-im-stay-dead-120798.html#ixzz3hSn7tWzB

Amendment re-authorizing EXIM advances in the U.S. Senate, but the House refuses to take action

Reprinted from CC Solutions blog

  • Even though the U.S. Senate supported EXIM by including its reauthorization in its version of the highway bill, the U.S. House is refusing to vote on it, instead voting for a short-term highway bill that does not include the reauthorization. Unless the long-term highway bill with the EXIM reauthorization is passed through conference committee (which is unlikely), EXIM’s reauthorization will have to wait until September. Here is a link to help you find your representatives, send emails and let your voice be heard.
  • All of EXIM’s approved transactions will continue to be honored regardless of the reauthorization vote. Existing facilities will continue to disburse and insurance policies will remain in place.
  • Moody’s stated in a report that Boeing would be hit hard if Congress fails to authorize EXIM in the coming weeks. Moody’s also raised concern about the competitive disadvantage Boeing will suffer since its competitors can readily obtain financed by their international export credit agencies. General Electric will also be hard hit if EXIM is not reauthorized,

U.S. Export-Import Bank Teetering on Edge

WASHINGTON — It’s tempting to celebrate the demise of the Export-Import Bank, whose authority expired last week. The bank, which subsidizes American exports, is held up by its congressional critics as an example of crony capitalism.

Among the companies lobbying to keep it going were General Electric, whose revenue was almost $150 billion last year, with a profit of $15 billion. Why, opponents ask, does it need government help? Yet the odds are that the bank will rise from its death bed and be reauthorized. The congressional politics are intense — the political right has a lot vested in killing the bank — and could affect future congressional leadership. The process will be messy.

The theoretical case against Ex-Im is compelling: Corporate welfare isn’t among the more pressing claims for government assistance. In practice, the argument breaks down: The bank is a job creator at no cost to the taxpayers.

Started by Franklin D. Roosevelt, it provides direct loans and loan guarantees at low interest rates to foreign entities to buy American products.

Many countries require this kind of support as a condition for importing American goods, and in many cases these are transactions that private banks won’t undertake.

Most other nations have export credit agencies and some, especially China, are much more aggressive about selling abroad than the United States.

Last year, the bank returned $675 million to the United States Treasury, mostly from the fees and interest it charges on loans. The deals it underwrote helped create more than 160,000 jobs. The default rate was less than 1 percent.

Critics contend that a big chunk of Ex-Im’s lending goes to a few large companies such as Boeing and G.E. There is some truth to that claim, though Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker says, “They’re forgetting about the supply chains, the thousands of small- and medium-size companies that benefit.” G.E. gets Ex-Im Bank assistance for projects such as locomotives for Angola or a water project for Cameroon, which are among the dozens of countries that require export credit funding, and where private financing wouldn’t be available.

Nonetheless, killing the bank has become a cause célèbre for conservative policy institutions and some politicians, who oppose a government program that benefits big business and is supported by President Obama.

The presidential candidate Ted Cruz and other Republican leaders are making defunding the bank a conservative litmus test. Last year, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas was a big promoter of the bank, which he called a job creator in his state. In May of this year, as a presidential candidate, he came out against reauthorization.

The congressional politics are byzantine. A solid majority in both houses of Congress supports the bank. In a procedural vote last month, it was backed by 65 senators, enough to overcome any filibuster; opposition came from mainly conservative Republicans and Bernie Sanders, the independent Socialist from Vermont who is running for president.

In the House, opponents, led by the Financial Services Committee chairman, Jeb Hensarling, don’t want a floor vote, arguing that a majority of the Republican caucus wouldn’t stand with Ex-Im.

Mr. Hensarling has leadership ambitions and, hearing his footsteps, other party leaders have flipped and now oppose defunding; The House speaker, John A. Boehner, is waffling. Associates say he doesn’t relish a fight with his caucus’s right wing, especially as similar battles are likely later over issues such as raising the debt ceiling.

Senate supporters of the bank will meet with the president this week to map strategy and what changes in the authorization would be acceptable. The most likely course is to attach Ex-Im to a “must pass” bill, likely the highway authorization, and send it to the House where there are enough votes to pass it.

If that succeeds, the critics of crony capitalism can easily find new targets. The United States tax code is a gold mine of corporate welfare.

LAPSED!!!!!!!

AS of 12:01 am July 1st, the charter of the Export Import Bank of the United States expired. In one of the most irresponsible and politically charged act, the Congress failed to bring bank’s reauthorization to a vote, letting it lapse (we hope temporarily). Thus, as of now, the United States are technically without an offcial Export Credit Agency supporting national exports. It is a shame and an outrage.

The following excerpt is reprinted from the blog by CC-Sulutions:

US Ex-Im Bank to lose its charter, which could be renewed in a few weeks’ time

Each week CC Solutions publishes stories of interest to exporters, lenders, and other export finance parties on our blog. You may visit our prior blog posts directly by clicking here. You may unsubscribe from future mailings by clicking here

  • Barring any eleventh-hour developments in Congress (which are unlikely), US Ex-Im Bank will lose its charter on June 30th. Claudia Slacik, the ECA’s chief banking officer and senior vice president, export finance, noted that if the agency’s charter does expire, it will continue to work on existing deals and simply cease doing any new business. Regardless of what happens, US Ex-Im Bank will continue to exist and honor its existing commitments to borrowers and lenders for years to come.
  • Many in Congress and elsewhere are optimistic about a full reauthorization of US Ex-Im Bank in July. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Tuesday that it was possible that the Senate could vote in July on a full reauthorization of the agency as an amendment to the highway funding bill.
  • Meanwhile, outside the United States, governments continue to rely on ECAs to promote exports. In the United Kingdom, a Labor Party-commissioned report called for further reforms to UKEF to further expand its role in promoting exports.

US EXIM releases Annual Competitiveness Report

61ae8-exim-bank1As the Export Import Bank of the United States (US EXIM) fights Congress for its reauthorization and ultimately its survival, the bank released its 2015 Annual Competitiveness Report . Two key trends stand out: more export credit agencies (ECAs) in more countries supporting more of their countries’ exporters, and China ECAs gaining significant market share from OECD countries’ ECAs. To download a copy of the report visit

http://www.exim.gov/sites/default/files/apps/whats-new.html

Eliminating the US EXIM at times like these would be irresponsible unilateral disarmament damaging to US Exports, American jobs and our leadership position in international trade. There is still time to call your Congressional Representatives and urge them bring reauthorization of the US EXIM bank to a vote, BEFORE its charter expires in June 30th.Featured Image -- 2741

For more information on the subject read:

Congressional path to re-chartering U.S. EXIM: Mismanagement, or Crime?

DON’T DELAY. CALL YOUR CONGRESSMAN TODAY!

Congressional path to re-chartering U.S. EXIM: Mismanagement, or Crime?

“Trade Bank Likely to Live – Only After it Lapses” read the headline in Friday’s edition of the  Wall Street Journal (see full reprint of the article, below). It was a subtle and interesting summary of the irresponsible, politically charged fight in both U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, with respect to reauthorization of the Export Import Bank of the United States.Featured Image -- 2741

As someone who over the last 15 years has been intimately involved with Government backed Export and Project financing programs, and whose company works with the US EXIM and other export credit agencies (ECA’s) on the daily basis, I have been very closely following the process and listened to hours of Congressional hearings on the subject.

Frankly, the hearings scared me, as they clearly demonstrated to what extent our nation’s lawmakers will advance their political agendas and in the process be willing to inflict damage on ordinary Americans, often even on their own constituents.

The hearings followed a clear pattern – Pro EXIM Congressmen/women sending soft lobs at the Chairman and at other members testifying on behalf of the bank. Questions were repeatedly focused around highlighting EXIM’s  positives such as: US jobs support, small business support, surplus returned to the US Treasury, bank’s extremely low default rate, bank’s role in financing foreign receivables for exporters (something US banks cannot do)

On the other side of the isle, the vial Con set spoke in half truths, took a number of things out of context and spewed venom. Their ammunition consisted of absolutely flawed risk assessment arguments; insular and inward, rather than global view of the export credit agency’s roles in the global marketplace; flawed arguments on picking winners and losers; and bank’s role in financing only between 1 and 2% of the US exports. The latter argument trying to drive home a point that the bank is insignificant to begin with and thus something our country could live without.  The Cons  presented expert testimony from some seriously dubious sources. I wonder how much experience, a well educated economist and a respected researcher has in exports and international business, when his top job was as the administrator of the NY Census Bureau?

Then you had some Senators trying to ascertain preposterous concept of the damage, which has been caused to US Economy, when EXIM financed US exports to foreign buyers, while competing against other countries’ ECA offerings. Although the bank’s Chairman several times pointed out the fact that when US companies compete abroad, if their potential exports will not be financed by the US EXIM, the goods and services needed, will be purchased in other countries and will be financed by ECAs of those countries, thus causing double damage to the US economy.

Yet, despite hours of hearings, certain crucial information was completely overlooked. The very fact that US must have a stong ECA, since certain major public and private international projects involve non-payment risk for all American suppliers, and that such risk could only be mitigated by the US government and its potent economic, diplomatic, military and geopolitical levers, seemed completely lost on all involved.

Also completely under the radar, slipped the fact of building the exporter credibility and buyer confidence, while developing export sales into infrastructure projects abroad. Just an indicative availability of financing from a government Agency like EXIM goes a very long way to help US companies secure supply into multimillion dollar contracts for such projects, at early stages of their development

EXIM proponents also deployed a bit of their own sleight of hand.

The fact that US banks are not allowed to insure foreign receivables thus handicapping US exporters was discussed ad naseum, but no mentioned was made of the fact that an entire private insurance industry exists to take up a lot of slack in this segment.

A distinguished Senator from NJ practically perjured himself when he told the world a story of a NJ firm, which has no options financing a $300 million Ukrainian contract and would lose that business without EXIM. What he failed to mention was that EXIM stopped financing projects in Ukraine over a year ago and thus, even if reauthorized, would not consider financing this firm until the bank returns to financing projects in that country. True EXIM would have been an excellent option, but the contract has been signed, NJ firm has begun to export and another financing arrangement, with another US government agency, is now being put in place.

And so on these hearings went for hours and hours of spending taxpayers’ funds and valuable management and adinistrative resources.

Yet, at no time the esteemed members of Congress undertook to examine the damage they themselves were causing to the US economy by dragging what should be a routine reauthorization process through the mud, wasting taxpayers’ time and money and distracting the Bank’s Chairman and others at the bank from focusing on their jobs.  This reauthorization “process” also allows foreign competing ECAs gain competitive ground and creates costlu uncertainly among exporters, foreign buyers and bankers. The Conservative Republicans are sabotaging the process just simply because they can and are letting their partisan political agenda, personal feelings about the Bank’s leadership and lack of true understanding of the real world situation wreck havoc with the lives of ordinary Americans.  Yet now, when there finally seem to be enough votes to reauthorize the EXIM bank, the Congress is considering letting the bank’s charter lapse for technical reasons,  In the private sector world this type of irresponsible behaviour would border on criminal.

At no time, our nation’s lawmakers considered what needs to be done to really reform this American Export Credit ​Agency to better serve the US manufacturers and exporters. All that was discussed were the recommendations of the compliance oversight bodies on the incremental reforms of the existing Agency. A Senator for Massachusetts tried to use a stick approach to bracket the bank into asinine compliance measures of requiring 25% of Banks reauthorizations to come from small business. A noble goal, which breaks down when trying to add up all $100K – $1mil small business transactions as percentage against financing $150 mil satellite, a $250 mil aircraft, or a $10 billion power plant.  Today, small business transactions by number account for something like 80% of the Bank’s total. To continue to force a 25% increase by volume is short sighted and politically charged.

I61ae8-exim-bank1 have written about the US EXIM for years and will be the first to suggest that the Agency could use substantial reform and improvement (Heck, the entire US Government could be made smaller, more streamlined and could use reform and improvement). The US EXIM is by far the one of the more siloed and insular of all the US Trade and Development agencies, which I have dealt with. On one hand it is largely unknown by the US exporter community, but on the other hand is is very small and overburdened, as it is demand driven and has no way to adjust its personnel to handle peak demand.  Civil Service protections, as wonderful ad they are, (two of my immediate family members work for the USG, including one for the Bank), sometimes work negatively and do not allow to effectively fire weak performers, Of the 450 employes at EXIM, probably about 20% need to be pruned and replaced.  If Congress really wanted to help US Exporters, rather than annihilate a perfectly good Agency in a politically charge bombardement, it would have conducted a series of round table discussions calling for constructive reform at the bank. Such discussions would involve all stakeholders who actually know exports and understand international business, rather than ivory tower theorists.

At the time when our nation is saddled with the largest debt and budget deficit in history, when we have problems with Iran, ISIS, Ukraine, Syria, health care, unemployment, falling exports, global warming and the list goes on and on. When we need congressional leadership and votes on really important legislature such as TPP, repeal of Obamacare etc., our lawmakers find all the time in the world to debate the need to reauthorize a tiny 80-year old SELF SUSTAINING US Government agency. They conveniently ignored the facts that EXIM sent $7 billion dollars back to the Treasury in the last decade to help reduce our dreaded budget deficit and that it is part of a global export ecosystem of about 80 such agencies world wide and closing it would be tantamount to unilateral disarmament of our export sector.

Whether we like it or not, international trade (certainly exports) will always be an issue deeply influenced and affected by our national foreign policy. To make an argument that markets must take care of themselves (and I am among the biggest proponents of a free market theory) in case of international trade is preposterous. Thus our government’s trade and development agencies, including US EXIM, are a vital part of our nation’s global economic tool set.  EXIM’s  mission has been to support US job creation by helping American companies compete globally and expand their exports, while mitigating risk. The bank has been true to its mission and should be reauthorized before expiration of its charter at teh end of June, while the lawmakers who irresponsibly stood in the way of the reauthorization process should at the very least be severly censured and certainly voted out of office at the next possible opportunity.

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 Trade Bank Likely to Live—Only After It Lapses

Backers believe they have votes to renew export-finance agency, but legislative calendar complicates path
The Export-Import Bank seems to have enough legislative support to pass, but the legislative calendar poses an obstacle to passage before its charter lapses. Companies from General Electric to Air Tractor, whose facility in Texas is pictured here, say passage is important for their business.
The Export-Import Bank seems to have enough legislative support to pass, but the legislative calendar poses an obstacle to passage before its charter lapses. Companies from General Electric to Air Tractor, whose facility in Texas is pictured here, say passage is important for their business. PHOTO: JUSTIN CLEMONS FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

WASHINGTON—Supporters of the Export-Import Bank say they are poised to beat back a drive to kill the institution, but the victory may come only after a June 30 expiration of the bank’s charter causes a lapse in the bank’s ability to underwrite new loans.

For now, the legislative calendar looms as the largest obstacle for supporters of the agency, which provides financing for U.S. exports. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) promised Senate Democrats last month to hold a vote on the bank in June.

But with no other major legislative deadlines before July, bank supporters are struggling to find a must-pass bill on which to attach a reauthorization, a move that would help garner approval in both chambers. Lawmakers and lobbyists said a measure to extend funding for highways, needed by late July, may be the best bill to carry an extension of the bank.

Backers believe they have enough votes to pass a reauthorization in both chambers. Until recently, the biggest question has been whether House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) would bring a bill to the House floor amid GOP resistance. Mr. Boehner recently said that if the Senate passes legislation extending the bank’s operations, the House would consider it under a process that allows critics to try to overhaul or extinguish the agency through amendments.

“Whether it is 14 days or 14 weeks or 14 months, this institution will be reauthorized,” said Rep. Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) one of nearly 60 House Republicans that supports a bill to reauthorize the bank.

“If the charter lapses,“ he said, “it may take a number of occasions where U.S. companies lose substantial business around the world—to help us focus.”

Created in 1934, the bank provides financing for American companies to sell exports overseas through a wide range of programs, including guaranteeing loans to foreign buyers and providing credit insurance. It provided $20.5 billion in credit assistance to support an estimated $27.5 billion in exports for the year ended last October, and sent $675 million to the U.S. Treasury that it earned from interest and fees. A large share of its guarantees go to corporate titans like Boeing Co. and General Electric Co. because it backs big-ticket exports of aircraft and industrial equipment.

If the bank’s charter does expire, it would honor existing guarantees but it wouldn’t be able to underwrite new loans or renew other financial tools aiding exporters. Already, the threat of a shutdown has led to fewer applications for certain guarantees, said Fred Hochberg, the bank’s chairman.

Republican divisions over the agency are likely to put Mr. Boehner in an uncomfortable but familiar position: Having to pick between upsetting conservative lawmakers who already distrust him or the business establishment that has long supported him and other GOP lawmakers.

With the two other top House Republicans—Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise—opposed to reauthorizing the bank, “if it comes to the floor, it’s going to be because Mr. Boehner wants it to come to the floor,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R., S.C.), a bank opponent.

Conservatives, led by Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas), are pushing for expiration of the bank, which they believe interferes in the market and creates taxpayer risk. Mr. Hensarling hasn’t attempted to pass legislation winding down the bank out of his committee because the bank’s charter will expire on its own, but that has left GOP leaders without their own bill to bring to the House floor.

Mr. Hensarling said Wednesday that he recognized that Republicans were divided on the issue, and that he hadn’t yet decided how to move forward. “I do understand that one person’s corporate welfare and politically driven capital allocation is another person’s vital export support program and level playing field,” he said.

Many lawmakers expect a bill reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank would pass, if brought up in the House, where nearly all 188 Democrats support it. Close to 60 Republicans back a bill from Rep. Stephen Fincher (R., Tenn.) that would reauthorize its charter with some minor changes.

The bank’s critics have been optimistic because they prevail if “we get Congress to do what they’ve been so good at in the past—absolutely nothing,” said Brent Gardner,government affairs director for Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group backed by industrialists Charles and David Koch.

Business groups have ratcheted up their lobbying in recent days to secure a long-term extension, particularly in the Senate, where supporters hope a lopsided vote for the bank would ease its path in the House. “The votes are there. At least let us have our vote,” saidDanny Roderick, chief executive of Westinghouse Electric Co., who met with lawmakers on Tuesday.

Some firms have said that, while they could manage a short-term lapse, the brinkmanship and any failure to provide a long-term reauthorization is damaging the bank’s credibility in foreign countries when U.S. manufacturers compete against Chinese, South Korean or European firms that offer their own export-credit backing.

“These are 10-year, 15-year projects that we work on, and we can’t even decide month to month whether we’re going to have the Export-Import Bank,” said Mr. Roderick.

Some conservatives, meanwhile, are trying to pressure Mr. Boehner to pledge not to bring Ex-Im reauthorization up for a floor vote in exchange for conservatives’ support of upcoming trade legislation.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) said Thursday that the fight over the bank would not be tied to the trade bill.

“It’s just not going to happen,” said Mr. Ryan, who supports the bank’s expiration. He also said he anticipated that the charter will expire as scheduled on June 30.

Write to Nick Timiraos at nick.timiraos@wsj.com and Kristina Peterson atkristina.peterson@wsj.com

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