Fred Hochberg, president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, spoke to the Bank's annual conference in Washington April 23. With conservative Republicans in Congress balking at renewing the Bank's charter, now set to expire on June 30, this event served as a timely opportunity for Hochberg to rally support for an extension.
Hochberg, the son of Lillian Vernon, began his speech by quoting remarks by Teddy Roosevelt at the Sorbonne exactly 105 years ago regarding the character of the American people and what set Americans apart. Hochberg called this "one of the most iconic speeches in our history, and one which I think perfectly captures the American spirit."
Roosevelt said, "It's not the critic who counts. The credit belongs to the person who's actually in the arena, who strives valiantly, who knows the triumph of high achievements and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly."
Elaborating on this theme, Hochberg went on to say, "There's something uniquely American about risk taking, about striving for new frontiers, about failing and getting up again, dusting yourself off again, getting back in the saddle. Very few cultures value that, and that is something that truly separates the American spirit from the rest of the world." Furthermore, Hochberg ventured that what Roosevelt meant to say was "Success belongs to those who show up, who aren't afraid to take on risks or step into the arena."
Hochberg then enlisted the audience, which he called "job creators" from both sides of transactions and from all over the country, who "take on foreign competitors" to create jobs. He posed a choice that the country now faces: "whether it will continue to engage in the arena of global competition, or whether we'll retreat. It isn't easy going up against Russia, China, to win export sales and the jobs that come with them."
Hochberg mentioned the rise of the dollar and the fall in the price of oil, and the advent of new multilateral institutions such as a new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which he charged "could not only tilt the competitive landscape; they could also further cloud transparency in global finance."
Hochberg argued that the nature of competition in export finance "has changed fundamentally in recent decades." He proceeded to attack "a persistent myth out there" that competition is based "solely on merits of quality, innovation and price." He debunked this as "a romantic idea," whereas Americans have to compete against 60 other Ex-Im-like entities around the world, many more aggressive than Ex-Im in supporting their companies, forcing Americans to compete against "China Inc." Those countries are "zealous advocates for their national champions, forceful and unrelenting in the global market place."
Hochberg declared, "Ex-Im is not like them. We simply provide a backstop when private financing is unavailable."
This writer would add the issue of extending Ex-Im divides congressional Republicans. At the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade and the Oversight & Government Reform Subcommittee on Health Care, Benefits and Administrative Rules joint hearing last week, House Democrats said they have 290 votes and 60 Republicans ready to vote to extend Ex-Im, and Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., one of the 60, predicted action by the end of the year.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., opposes an extension but has said he would allow a vote.
(Archived video can be found here
. Video, witness testimony and the staff memorandum from last week's hearing can be found here
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