Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige said he and other administration officials will lead a campaign to restore federal funding for the Export-Import Bank next year, if the United States and other trading nations can't agree on a reduction in export subsidies.
The Ex-Im bank was singled out for a sharp cutback by Reagan administration budget strategists to show that the business community was sharing in the sacrifices of the president's economic program.
The president's plan proposed to reduce the agency's loan-making authority by $752 million this year and $1 billion by the 1984 fiscal year, a 16 percent cutback.
"President Reagan proposes to reduce or eliminate federal subsidies to business," the administration said in its outline of budget revisions this month. "In particular, he thinks it is unfair that taxpayers should be forced to share the interest costs of private, profit-making -- and often larger -- corporations engaged in export enterprise."
But the sacrifice may be temporary. Baldrige subscribes to the counter-argument by U.S. exprters that the budget action against the Ex-Im bank would leave exporters at a critical disadvantage against foreign competitors, who frequently receive lavish loan subsidies from their governments.
The "best of all worlds" would be an agreement between the U.S. and its trading partners to reduce the use of low-interest loans and other subsidies to aid exports, Baldrige said. But France, in particular, balked at such a pact last year. The administration will try agin, and if there is no agreement this year, he will push for a new policy toward the Ex-Im bank.