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U.S. Senate approves Ex-Im Bank

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By James T. Hammond
jhammond@scbiznews.com
Published May 16, 2012

The U.S. Senate voted Tuesday 78-20 to reauthorize the charter of the Export-Import Bank, and to raise its lending ceiling to $140 billion from $100 billion.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was a leader in the debate in support of reauthorizing the bank, which is a major lender to companies buying South Carolina products such as Boeing commercial jets and General Electric gas turbines.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
"At the end of the day, this is about whether we are going to unilaterally surrender," Graham said in his speech on the Senate floor.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the measure 330-93. The bill now goes to President Obama, whose signature would make it law.

According to the Export-Import Bank’s own figures, it supported sales of South Carolina products valued at $534 million between 2007 and 2012. Those figures likely will soar as Boeing begins exporting passenger jets from its North Charleston assembly plant.

“Some people actually want to do away with it. I understand free markets pretty well. I would love to live in a world where no country interfered in the marketplace at all. The best products would win based upon a level playing field,” Graham said.

“Why do we have the Export-Import Bank? It is about 70 years old. There a long record here,” Graham said.

“Sometimes because of the volatile nature of the region in question, traditional banks would not lend money for U.S. products sold overseas,” Graham said. “We created a bank to help us export products. That bank makes money, it does not lose money. It has been a sound way to get American-made products into the international marketplace.

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Graham says Ex-Im Bank crucial to Boeing’s future in S.C.

“Canada, China, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Brazil, India and Britain all have export banks. The G-7 nations, which we compete against, between 2006 and 2010, doubled the amount of export financing in their countries. That's what we are competing against,” Graham said.

“The only area of our economy that has been strong lately has been exports,” Graham said. “Boeing makes planes in Washington and in South Carolina. Eight out of 10 planes made in South Carolina are sold with Export-Import Bank financing.

"To those who want to end the bank without other countries doing so, I think you'd be doing a great disservice to people in this country who are selling products overseas. In my state alone, you would be destroying Boeing's ability to grow in South Carolina. General Electric makes gas turbines in Greenville; one-third of those turbines made in Greenville are sold with Ex-Im financing," Graham said.

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