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National, Pittsburgh region companies rally to extend charter of Export-Import Bank | TribLIVE.com
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National, Pittsburgh region companies rally to extend charter of Export-Import Bank

David Conti
| Friday, June 12, 2015 12:01 a.m

GE Transportation recently signed a deal to build 100 locomotives in Erie — including engines made in Grove City — and sell them in Angola for $350 million.

GE used financing through the Export-Import Bank, which provides loans, loan guarantees and insurance to U.S. companies selling overseas. The bank, supporters say, helps U.S. companies compete more effectively for foreign business.

“If we hadn’t had that financing, the order would have gone to China,” said Richard Simpson, global head of supply chain for the company, who said Thursday that GE Transportation financed $720 million in sales to three other countries last year.

Such deals are in jeopardy, advocates for the 80-year-old bank say. Its charter expires June 30 and observers say it might not come up for a vote in Congress before then.

“There is no compelling case to reauthorize the bank,” said Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican. He won’t allow his panel, which oversees the bank, to consider legislation to extend it.

Opponents say the program amounts to a form of corporate welfare that disrupts the free market. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, says small companies such as those which supply GE Transportation, or are trying to do business overseas themselves, need the support.

Companies that are subsidized by their home countries or that have similar export credit agencies would have an automatic advantage over U.S. firms, he said.

“That alone should be reason enough for folks in both parties to support the Export- Import Bank,” Casey said during a conference call with reporters a day after the Senate took a test vote showing members supported reauthorization 65-31.

The bank has supported $7 billion in business from 314 exporters in Pennsylvania since 2007, according to its records.

Advocates say it supports American jobs by requiring that companies using Ex-Im source their supplies here, a requirement other export credit agencies don’t have.

“Rather than debating reauthorization we should be talking about strengthening and supporting Ex-Im significantly,” said Devesh Sharma, managing director of Canonsburg-based Aquatech International, which sells water treatment systems.

The company, which employs 500 people, has used revenue from international sales to support its work for Pennsylvania gas drilling companies, Sharma said.

“Without Ex-Im, we would be required to scale down operations in the United States and would have to procure millions of dollars of material from other countries thus impacting hundreds of American jobs in the process,” he said. “That doesn’t help anyone but the other countries.”

Bloomberg News contributed to this report. David Conti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5802 or dconti@tribweb.com.

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