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If Ex-Im Bank Disappears, Washington Businesses Could Suffer

For small businesses in Washington state, the Export-Import Bank has been crucial when they do business overseas. But the credit agency’s ability to help them is at risk: Its federal charter has expired and renewal legislation has bogged down in Congress.

Sam Basta has been selling boat lifts since 1985. He didn’t know much about the Export-Import Bank until he started expanding his market overseas.

“I guess, I thought, like many others, that it was geared toward these big businesses,” Basta said, “aerospace or something like that.”

But Basta found that Ex-Im Bank also helps small businesses like his. Last year he was introduced to the agency as he was expanding his market to Sweden.

Before Ex-Im Bank’s backing, Basta shipped his lifts one or two at a time. He also required his customers to pre-pay. Now he can now ship a container load at a time; the credit agency guarantees payment. “What it does is gives us a sense of assurance that we know we’re going to get paid,” Basta said.

The Export-Import Bank has been around for 80 years. In July the agency’s charter expired and wasn’t renewed. Critics in Congress say the program amounts to corporate welfare. Earlier this month the House passed a bill that includes reauthorizing the agency. A similar bill passed the Senate.

Even so, Sen. Patty Murray said that with the differing versions, it’s not a done deal. “We just have a month and a half left in this session, with a lot on our plate,” she said.

Murray’s office estimates the Ex-Im Bank has helped 90 Washington state businesses, most of them small businesses.

Lawmakers have until mid-December to iron out their differences.