Export-Import Bank Subsidizes the Western World

On its “About Us” page, the Export-Import Bank gives us its purported mission: “Ex-Im Bank does not compete with private sector lenders but provides export financing products that fill gaps in trade financing. We assume credit and country risks that the private sector is unable or unwilling to accept… With 80 years of experience, Ex-Im Bank has supported more than $567 billion of U.S. exports, primarily to developing markets worldwide.”

That would make you think that the Ex-Im Bank is all about subsidizing exports to developing world markets where perhaps the country has too poor a financial market to finance major purchases from America, or where they are likely to be tempted by generous subsidies from European or East Asian governments that prop up their own “national champion” industries.

Perhaps at one time that was the case. According to the Ex-Im bank’s own figures, almost half of its current exposure is to the developed world — the OECD countries. The largest loan last year was given to the United Kingdom, the country that is the global center of financial services.

Here’s a graph of the bank’s exposure to the most important groupings of countries — the OECD, the rising economies or BRICs, the poor economies of NAM (the Non-Aligned Movement), and a group of others (mostly Eastern Europe and the Caribbean).

ExIm graph 1

The figures look even worse when you add up the NAM and other categories and split them out by continent. Africa has the smallest slice of the Ex-Im pie.

ExIm graph 2

It is obvious that the Ex-Im Bank is actually used primarily to support exports to the developed world. Credit and country risks should not be a factor there.

Jeb Hensarling is right. The Ex-Im Bank is a tool of the crony economy. It helps large American corporations in developed financial markets, while claiming to help poor countries. It needs to go.