On Monday, I started the workweek off right, by signing two bipartisan trade bills into law. They’ll help level the playing field for American workers and businesses, boost our economic ties with lower-income countries, and give our workers the job training and support they need to succeed in a rapidly changing world.
We should be building on that progress. Instead, just two days after I signed those two trade bills, Congress is taking a step backward.
As of Wednesday, the authorization for the U.S. Export-Import Bank, or “Ex-Im,” has expired. The bank’s sole mission is to support American jobs by increasing our exports. That’s it. It helps small businesses go global. It helps American entrepreneurs take that next step. Plus, it costs the taxpayers nothing — all its money comes from its own operations. In fact, it actually generates money for the taxpayer. That’s how cost-effective it is.
Ex-Im has provided support to businesses and boosted exports in all 50 states, as a state-by-state analysis my administration put out yesterday shows. Over the last six years, Ex-Im supported $2.5 billion of exports from 179 businesses in Minnesota. But because Congress has failed to act, the bank’s mandate is running out. That means it’ll lose the authority to finance new exports in the future. Starting Wednesday, businesses that need additional help shipping their made-in-America products around the globe will lose that help. And that means lost sales, lost customers and lost opportunities.
Other countries aren’t going to just stop competing because Ex-Im has lapsed. There are 85 export credit agencies just like the Ex-Im Bank around the world. They’re all fighting for sales and export-backed jobs. They’re doing everything they can to help their businesses compete and win. Why wouldn’t we do the same?
Here’s why this matters. Over the past five years, we’ve worked hard to open new markets for our businesses, and as a result, more American goods are being sold around the world than ever before. Last year, we had record exports for the fifth straight year. And exports support nearly 11.7 million American jobs — 1.8 million more than when I took office — so by increasing exports, we’re helping put more Americans to work. Plus, export-supported jobs are good jobs. They pay, on average, up to 18 percent more. That’s more money in people’s pockets, more breathing room for families and more customers for American businesses.
These numbers speak for themselves. We should be doing everything we can to create more opportunities for American businesses to sell to the world. That’s what high-standard trade agreements — like the ones I am negotiating in the Asia-Pacific region — will do. And that’s what the Ex-Im Bank does every day.
Past Congresses have reauthorized Ex-Im 16 times. They’ve always done it with support from both parties. And the past 13 presidents have supported the bank, too. It really shouldn’t be any different this time. The good news is, the support in Congress is there. Strong majorities of Democrats and Republicans have said they’d vote yes to reauthorize the bank. Congressional leaders just need to call a vote. That’s all it’ll take to get the Export-Import Bank back on track.
Your members of Congress are home this week. So if you’re a small-business owner — or an employee of a large business that depends on financing to sell in new markets and create new jobs — tell your senators to quit treating your business like it’s expendable. Tell your representative to stop the delays. It’s time for Congress to do its job, and keep America’s exports growing.
Small-business owners have had to overcome a lot these past few years. So have America’s workers. But through their grit and determination — and with help from our economic policies — we’ve seen more businesses reopen their doors, more people get back to work, more American goods sold around the world. Today, small-business owners say that they’re more optimistic than they’ve been in years. They’re ready to keep growing and hiring. Washington should not stand in their way.
Barack Obama is president of the United States.