Florida has some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Our state is home to Disney World and the Daytona 500. South Beach is one of the hottest entertainment destinations on Earth.
But the economic crash of 2008 exposed a hard truth for our state. Our economy was too dependent on tourism and construction. Economists agreed that as we recovered from the Great Recession, Florida had to do more than just recover the jobs lost after the market crashed. Florida had to diversify its economy.
Now, a bright spot has emerged. Increasing international trade is driving growth and bringing jobs to the state. Our status as the Gateway to Latin America has been cemented. And the expanded Panama Canal has Florida’s 15 major seaports working overtime as we export goods across the globe.
But some lawmakers in Congress are putting this at risk as they try to kill the Export-Import Bank. And while there are clearly things worth cutting from the federal bureaucracy, the Ex-Im Bank isn’t one of them.
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This little-known agency helps companies sell goods overseas by providing loans and insurance. For more than 80 years, Ex-Im has boosted American exports and helped the private sector create American jobs. Since 2007, more than 9,000 American companies have exported over $300 billion in goods with Ex-Im’s support. It has helped Florida companies sell more than $9 billion worth of products to foreign buyers.
But Ex-Im has been sidelined since June, when the agency’s charter was allowed to lapse without an up-or-down vote.
My company, Yavid Corp. of Miami, doesn’t use Ex-Im, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t central to our business. Since 1998, we have provided the logistical support for American companies shipping their goods abroad. Our services include coordinating cargo ships leaving from PortMiami, chartering cargo flights and storing goods awaiting export at our Medley warehouse.
But since June, when Ex-Im was allowed to expire, our business has slowed. Our customers are unable to close deals and sell their goods abroad. Recently, I was in the Dominican Republic visiting customers, when I learned that their project was on hold because of Ex-Im’s lapse. They were buying electrical transformers from an American manufacturer, but the deal couldn’t move forward without Ex-Im.
Those trying to shut down Ex-Im like to call the agency an example of “crony capitalism,” but 90 percent of ExEx-Im’s services are available to all American exporters, not just the large an-Im’s transactions are with small companies. d politically connected companies.
They say it is Big Government, but Ex-Im is one of the smallest federal agencies, with a staff of just 400 people. They claim Ex-Im hurts taxpayers, but companies using Ex-Im have to pay interest on loans and fees for its services.
Finally, critics say that the government shouldn’t be in the job of helping American companies. They say that the private market should do what Ex-Im does. But Ex-Im’s charter bans the bank from competing against the private sector. Companies seeking Ex-Im’s help have to prove there is no commercial alternative available before Ex-Im can step in.
Fortunately, a bipartisan majority in Congress has finally forced a vote on the issue. Over 300 House Members are expected to vote for the Bank this week. Hopefully, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart will join them in standing up for business and trade.
Without Ex-Im, America will cede our economic leadership in Latin America to China. Cuba’s influence over our friends in the region will grow. And our status as the Gateway to Latin America will be at risk. Let’s hope our Congressional delegation does the right thing and votes to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.
Luis Vidal is President of Yavid Corp., a Miami-based export-logistics company.