The largest barrier facing small businesses as they seek to grow is access to capital. This presents an even bigger barrier to many women owners of small to medium-sized businesses who are shut out from accessing capital by their local banks.
Export-Import Banks fill that gap for companies that do business internationally. The US Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank is the official export credit agency of the United States. Its mission is to provide trade financing for US exporters.
Trade Financing provides exporters with a form of insurance that minimizes the risk that they will either not be paid or not receive the goods for which they have paid. Ex-Im Bank programs include export credit insurance which protects an exporter of products and services against the risk of non-payment by a foreign buyer. Export working capital advances the business the capital it needs to deliver on an export order that it has received. Only with the guarantees provided by the EX-Im Bank, can small businesses receive the capital that they need from their local banks.
All major industrial and emerging economies, as well as several developing countries, provide similar export credit services to their domestic industries. The World Trade Organization (WTO) has estimated that 80% to 90% of world trade relies on trade finance.
Yet, a campaign is underway to stop the U.S. Congress from re-authorizing the Bank’s Charter before it expires on September 30th, 2014. Such campaigns allege that the US Ex-Im Bank provides “subsidies” to large US corporations. Such allegations ignore the fact that the Ex-Im Bank’s clients pay for these services, providing the agency with the funding that it needs for its operations. They also mischaracterize Ex-Im Bank’s clients, 90% of which are small businesses (by US standards). Finally, such statements ignore the role of women in the US economy. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, women-owned firms in the U.S. have grown at one-and-a-half times the rate of other small enterprises in the last 15 years and now account for nearly 30% of all new businesses.
Should this campaign succeed, for the first time in its 80-year history, the US Ex-Im Bank would have to cease operations, at least until common sense prevailed. Failure to re-authorize would make the U.S. an anomaly among its industrial counterparts.
A counter-campaign #ExIm reauthorization and #ExIm4Jobs has been underway to prevent this from happening. As can be expected, there is some hyperbole on both sides. However, this author supports the campaign to reauthorize the Bank and hope that you will too. #ExIm reauthorization!