Reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank is a national security imperative

The US House of Representatives is voting this week on a long-term reauthorization of the US Export-Import Bank. Until May of this year, the Ex-Im Bank had lacked a quorum since 2015, meaning it was unable to authorize loans valued over $10 million. Reauthorization is “vital if Washington is to make progress in reducing the nation’s huge merchandise trade deficit ($887 billion last year).”

As stated in a letter US national security leaders to top House and Senate Democrats and Republicans, during the period of Ex-Im Bank’s limited function, “other nations have deployed their export credit agencies at the center of trade policy to increase their economic and political influence.”

While a fully functional Ex-Im Bank is important for the competitiveness of many US exporters, it is essential for certain industries of strategic importance, including nuclear energy and space.  This means that US security interests associated with these exports are also linked to the ability of Ex-Im Bank to support them.

US global leadership on nuclear reactor projects is at a crossroads, with Russia quickly overtaking the US in nuclear energy exports and China demonstrating interest in building nuclear reactors in third-party countries as well. Nuclear companies in Russia and China are state-owned entities, and the US private sector has struggled to compete on the international stage, which poses a challenge to US efforts to export its nuclear safety and nonproliferation standards along with its nuclear energy technologies. There are a number of tools available to US industry so that it can remain competitive against state-owned enterprises, and—in the words of US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross—the Ex-Im Bank is an essential part of that “toolbox.”

Amb. Thomas Graham, Jr. is executive chairman of the Board for the Lightbridge Corporation and Admiral Richard Mies is president and chief executive officer of the The Mies Group, Ltd. Amb. Graham and Admiral Mies are co-chairs of the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center’s Nuclear Energy and National Security Coalition (NENSC). You can follow the Nuclear Energy and National Security Coalition on Twitter @NENSCoalition

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Image: The Capitol Building in Washington DC. Unsplash/Louis Velazquez