Sen. Sherrod Brown, Ohio manufacturers defend Export-Import Bank against critics

Cleveland Plain Dealer

Washington -- An issue pitting airplane parts makers against an airline and free-market purists against interventionists brought together an interesting set of bedfellows Wednesday: Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and the Ohio Manufacturers' Association.

Some Ohio business executives make clear they don't love all of the Ohio Democrat's positions. Yet Brown, who is often critical of this country's trade policies, joined the manufacturers in urging Congress to act before a major trade-supporting program shuts down, potentially endangering 290,000 U.S. jobs.

Supporters want Congress to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, an independent federal agency that makes loans and guarantees to businesses that export their products. They also want Congress to increase the bank's lending cap by $40 billion, to $140 billion by 2015.

By providing loans, credit guarantees and export-credit insurance so foreign buyers can purchase United States exports, the agency supports jobs throughout this country, including thousands in Ohio. It is self-supporting, guarding against losses by charging fees or premiums for its loans, says its chairman and president, Fred Hochberg.

Since 2009, 148 Ohio businesses have obtained support from the Ex-Im Bank, Brown said.

"Exporting is difficult, especially for small businesses," Brown said on a conference call with reporters from Ohio news organizations. Hochberg and Ohio Manufacturers' Association president Eric Burkland joined him. "It's a lot more complicated than simply thinking we can sell something overseas," Brown said.

It's especially hard for small business owners, he said, because they "often can't secure private financing due to the credit risks and the difficulties associated with overseas investments."

That's where the Ex-Im Bank steps it, or so say supporters. "It fills in gaps where private financing has fallen short, and it costs taxpayers nothing," Brown said.

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Sen. Sherrod Brown, Ohio manufacturers defend Export-Import Bank against critics »