A Look at the US Export-Import Bank

Posted May 30th, 2012 at 1:10 pm (UTC-5)
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The Export-Import Bank of the United States provides loans and credit to help American companies sell goods and services overseas.

The bank was established in 1934 during the Great Depression as a way to increase trade and boost the economy. Initially, it was designed to finance exports to the Soviet Union, and eventually expanded to include other countries.

Throughout its nearly 80-year history, the Export-Import Bank has financed hundreds of billions of dollars of U.S. exports, but not everyone is a supporter.

Some conservatives in Congress want to shut the bank down, saying it distorts markets and amounts to corporate welfare. And in 2008, the bank faced scrutiny from lawmakers for approving assistance to an Indian company selling refined petroleum to Iran — a loan seen to conflict with U.S. national interests.

The bank's supporters say it lets the United States compete with other major world exporters who also get government support. It is also hailed as a vehicle for creating jobs and helping small businesses.

The bank says an average of 85 percent of its transactions directly benefit U.S. small businesses. But when it comes to dollar amounts, most of its financing helps large companies, including U.S. aircraft manufacturer Boeing.