Congress is deciding whether to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. As a proud professional airline pilot of 20 years, I believe that reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank must include desperately needed reforms. If not, U.S. jobs, including those in South Florida, are at risk.
Since the 1930s, the Ex-Im Bank’s mission has been to help finance the export of U.S. goods and services, bolstering the economy and creating jobs. Today, however, American jobs are being offshored. The Government Accountability Office reports that 28 percent of the Bank’s $140 billion in loans are for wide-body aircraft. That’s nearly $40 billion of subsidies to foreign competitors who are largely state-owned or subsidized and in direct competition with U.S. airlines.
This gives those competitors an advantage of approximately $20 million per aircraft. Many already have easy access to the capital markets or do not need financing. But, under the existing bank regulations, they qualify and apply. Who wouldn’t take free money? State-supported Emirates Airline committed to a $56 billion order for 150 Boeing 777X. The entire order is eligible for bank financing, threatening more than 151,000 U.S. aviation workers.
Does an airline that spends millions to sponsor Formula One, professional soccer, rugby, tennis, horse racing and golf really need a subsidy? Unless reforms are instituted to prevent the potential offshoring of aviation jobs — like mine — thousands of jobs in South Florida are at risk. U.S. airlines are already losing their share of the international market and U.S. airline workers are losing their jobs. Air India used Ex-Im Bank-funded planes to undercut competition between Mumbai and New York, forcing Delta out of the market and killing thousands of jobs.
Now is the time for Congress to implement common sense reforms.
First, eliminate the financing of wide-body aircraft for credit-worthy, state-owned or state-supported airlines. Second, require that the bank conduct in-depth analysis to ensure that its financing of purchases by foreign companies doesn’t offshore American jobs. Lastly, focus on businesses that export American-made goods.
What about Boeing? Just like the airlines, Boeing plays a critical role in maintaining American economic leadership, defending our country and its allies and creating and maintaining U.S. jobs. Many of the Air Line Pilots Association’s more than 51,000 members proudly operate Boeing aircraft.
But we all must compete on a level playing field. If international aviation is allowed to function without market-distorting subsidies, Boeing products will continue be flown the world over, preferably by well-trained U.S. pilots working for profitable U.S. airlines supporting jobs in South Florida.
Gustavo Rivera, Fort Lauderdale