For American Jobs And Competitiveness, We Need A Better QB At The Ex-Im Bank

George Allen Former US Senator
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As a football playing son of an NFL coach, I learned early in life the importance of teamwork, and that a team’s success is dependent on the hard work of each player. To increase the likelihood of winning, every player needs to be committed and willing to run the plays that the coach calls.

Despite President Trump’s strong support for the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank of the United States, someone who has previously called for this important agency’s destruction has been nominated to lead it: former Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ). This is tantamount to recruiting a quarterback who just wants to stay in the huddle and let the franchise fold.

There may be other administration positions that are perfect for Congressman Garrett, but QB of the Ex-Im Bank is not it.

For manufacturers in Virginia and across the country, the Ex-Im Bank is vital. It facilitates the financing needed for manufacturing companies—large and small—to compete in the global economy. It ensures that other countries don’t outcompete the United States and take our jobs, our business and our manufacturing base. 

The Ex-Im Bank is a powerful tool for job creation. In Virginia alone, since 2012, the Ex-Im Bank has facilitated nearly $2 billion in export sales and sustained close to 12,000 jobs. Nationwide, the agency has supported 1.4 million jobs over the past eight years.

Supporting more than a million American jobs is just common sense.

What doesn’t make sense is how Scott Garrett has aggressively and relentlessly tried to destroy the agency, seemingly without regard for the working men and women whose jobs were at stake. Less than two years ago, he declared the Ex-Im Bank should be put “out of business.”

Putting the Ex-Im Bank “out of business” would mean putting certain manufacturing companies “out of business.”

Manufacturers and Virginians need an Ex-Im Bank that is strong and successful, so we can’t have a guy leading it who harmfully believes it should be shut down.

No one can doubt that President Donald Trump is a champion of American manufacturing. He centered his campaign around manufacturing.  Keeping his promises, actions—on the regulatory, energy and labor front—were designed to bolster American manufacturing and make the industry more competitive. He has even rightly observed that the Ex-Im Bank is a “very good thing” for manufacturing competitiveness.

President Trump likes and has appointed Heisman Trophy quality people in his pro-business administration. That is why this particular nomination is illogical. It does not advance a pro-manufacturing agenda. A fully functioning, robust Ex-Im Bank is an essential ingredient to a competitive American manufacturing sector. Without it, America loses.

If Mr. Garrett’s nomination stands, we are risking the jobs of working people across our country. As the National Association of Manufacturers has said, it would be akin to a “terrible trade deal for our country.”

There are certainly few opponents of the Ex-Im Bank, who either misunderstand its role or don’t understand international competition, and many of them are hoping Mr. Garrett will thwart the agency’s activities. But the debate over the Ex-Im Bank itself has been resolved: Congress voted overwhelmingly in 2015 to reauthorize it.

American manufacturers don’t need another proxy battle about its existence. We need a slate of qualified, committed leaders who can fill the vacancies at the Ex-Im Bank board so that it can get back up and running at full speed. Any further delays will mean more deals and manufacturing jobs going to other countries.

Let’s be realistic about the world we compete in. At least 85 other countries have “export credit agencies,” their versions of our Ex-Im Bank. If we don’t have an Ex-Im Bank with a leader who supports its mission, we’re competing against these countries with a hand tied behind our back.

When my hero President Ronald Reagan signed legislation extending the Ex-Im Bank’s charter in 1986, he noted that it “sends an important signal to both our exporting community and foreign suppliers that American exporters will continue to be able to compete vigorously for business throughout the world.”

President Reagan understood the importance of the Ex-Im Bank. Is having an Ex-Im Bank president who shares President Reagan’s perspective too much to ask? Mr. Garrett’s nomination should not only be rejected by the Senate; President Trump should withdraw it. I know that the President can find a better leader for an agency that our working men and women count on to run plays to help our American team win on the international playing field.

George Allen is former Governor of Virginia and U.S. Senator and is president of the business strategy firm, George Allen Strategies, LLC