The combined local employees of GE Hitachi and GE Aviation will stage a rally on the GE campus in Castle Hayne Tuesday in support of continued authorization of the federal Export-Import Bank – known as the Ex-Im Bank – company officials announced Monday.
The purpose of the rally is “to encourage Congressmen Rouzer and Jones to do what’s right for their districts and support the Ex-Im Bank,” a news release stated. “GE is among several employers in the region that rely on the competitive financing options Ex-Im provides to sell products in the global marketplace.”
U.S. Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) has not indicated support for reauthorization, and U.S. Rep. David Rouzer (R-N.C.) recently sent a form letter to GE -- as well as to other constitutents who inquired about his position -- saying he would vote against it, according to GE Hitachi spokesman Christopher White. The bank’s charter will expire June 30 unless Congress votes to reauthorize it for another five years.
A call to Jones' office asking for a statement of his position was not returned by press time.
Speaking of the state's two U.S. senators, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) has been “a great advocate of the Ex-Im Bank, and we appreciate his support,” White said, adding he does not know what Sen. Thom Tillis’ (R-NC) position on the issue.
GE officials have invited representatives of the area's Congressional delegation to the rally. Burr and Rouzer are sending representatives; Tillis and Jones have not yet responded, White said.
The bank, created by Congress in 1934, is designed to assist U.S. companies compete with export credit offered by other countries, according to its website. The bank’s main programs are direct loans, loan guarantees, working capital guarantees and export credit insurance.
While Ex-Im’s critics have charged that the bank’s services primarily benefit large corporations like Boeing, GE and Caterpillar and are a form of corporate welfare, White said the bank’s financing is essential to GE’s sales overseas.
“We view Ex-Im Bank as an antidote to unfair global competition,” White said Monday, explaining that “financing is the ticket to entry” in international business.
“We’d all like to live in a pure capitalistic economy in which customers buy the best products,” White said. The reality, he added, is that GE needs financing and financial backing to win deals.
“One of the opportunities we’re looking at is in Poland, which is looking to get away from its reliance on Russia’s natural gas,” he said. “Poland can’t write a check for a multi-billion-dollar purchase; they need financing to afford any nuclear reactor. Russia, France and South Korea are showing up with checks in hand. We’re not asking for corporate welfare; we’re asking for a level playing field.”
To read more about the debate surrounding the Ex-Im Bank, read the upcoming edition of the Greater Wilmington Business Journal out June 19.