World Trade Month is a great time to revisit the role of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) as the official export credit agency (ECA) of the United States. As reported in the June 2020 Report to the U.S. Congress on Global Export Credit Competition, worldwide there are 115 known official ECAs. But if you’re not involved in international trade or trade finance, you may wonder, “What is an export credit agency and why do we have one?”
Export credit agencies can be private companies, government agencies, or a blend of the two that “act as an intermediary between national governments and exporters to issue export financing.” (Wikipedia)
From Investopedia.com, “An export credit agency (ECA) is a financial institution that offers financing to domestic companies for international export operations and other activities. ECAs offer loans and insurance to such companies to help remove the risk of uncertainty of exporting to other countries and underwrite political and commercials risks of overseas investments, thus encouraging exportation and international trade.”
In his paper, "The Role and Importance of Credit Agencies," Raquel Mazal Krauss of the Institute of Brazilian Business and Public Management Issues states that “the first export credit agency, a privately owned Swiss company, was founded in 1906, followed in 1919 by the first government export credit agency established in the United Kingdom to help improve economic conditions caused by the disruption of international trade during WWI.” Since then, countries around the world have organized export credit agencies to promote international trade.
In addition to being the official export credit agency of the United States, EXIM is an independent federal government agency that was established by executive order in 1934 with the mission of supporting American jobs by facilitating the export of U.S. goods and services.
EXIM is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and has regional offices throughout the country to provide local support for U.S.-based exporters.
In the preface to his book, Inside the World’s Export Credit Agencies, William A. Delphos provides this insight,
“Finance is the lubricant of commerce. Without financing, in all of its varieties (i.e., short-term trade credit, letters of credit, medium- and long-term capital equipment loans, and project finance), most international opportunities would be difficult to capitalize upon.”
“ECAs are typically government agencies that provide risk mitigation tools to financial institutions extending credit on behalf of their country’s exporters…”
“By using ECAs, exporters can sell on more liberal terms than cash in advance policies, and still have a high degree of certainty that they will get paid.”
The role that EXIM plays as the official ECA of the United States is laid out in the agency’s 2020 Annual Report:
“EXIM fulfills its mission in two principal ways. First, when exporters in the United States or their customers around the world are unable to access export financing from private sources, the agency equips them with the necessary tools to compete in foreign markets—direct loans, loan guarantees, export credit insurance, and guarantees of working capital loans or supply chain financing. Second, when U.S. exporters face foreign competition backed by other governments, EXIM provides buyer financing that is competitive with the financing offered by foreign ECAs.”
Highlights of the 2020 Annual Report include the following:
- EXIM authorized $5.4 billion of loan guarantees, export credit insurance, and direct loans in support of an estimated $10.8 billion of U.S. export sales and an estimated 37,000 jobs.
- EXIM’s small business authorizations totaled more than $2.0 billion, representing 38.6 percent of total authorizations. Transactions that directly benefitted small business exporters were nearly 89 percent of total transactions.
- EXIM authorized $335.4 million for minority and women-owned businesses.
Since its inception, EXIM has underwritten transformational projects like the Burma Road, provided trade finance solutions for thousands and thousands of businesses of all sizes, and supported millions of jobs across the country. That’s what an ECA does, and that’s why we have one.