CHARLESTON — U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said Monday the U.S. Federal Export-Import Bank is crucial to business growth in South Carolina because the world economy doesn’t operate on a free market system.
The self-financed bank, in existence since 1934 and up for reauthorization in Congress with key votes this week, helps American companies sell abroad by providing credit and loan guarantees to foreign customers when traditional financing is unavailable.
The Republican lawmaker told reporters in a conference call that eight of the 10 Boeing 787s being produced in the company’s new North Charleston plant during its first year of operation were financed through the bank, including sales to Air India.
“I firmly believe that the American worker and the American business community can compete with anybody in the world when you have a level playing field,” Graham said. “Not only do we not have a level playing field, but other nations are very involved in providing Ex-Im financing for their manufacturers.”
Graham said China’s export finance agency has financed more than the United States, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom combined and without the American bank “our ability to grow in South Carolina is non-existent.”
The U.S. Senate votes Tuesday on a measure to extend the life of the bank, set to expire at the end of May, for four years. It would also raise the lending cap to $140 billion from its current limit of $100 billion expected to be reached in the coming weeks.
The White House supports reauthorization of the bank.
The bank has long been opposed by conservative groups who say it picks winners and losers while distorting markets.
Both the Club for Growth and the Heritage Action groups have urged senators to vote against the amendment.