Walter C. Sauer, 75, the first vice president and vice chairman of the board of the Export-Import Bank of the United States from 1962 to 1976, died Wednesday at George Washington University Hospital. He had cancer.

From 1976 until last July, when he retired after 45 years of government service, Mr. Sauer was a special assistant to the bank's board of directors.

When he stepped down as vice chairman of the board, it established in his honor the Walter C. Sauer Fund at Princeton University to provide a cash prize each year to the Princeton student "who writes the most creative paper on any aspect of U.S. foreign trade."

When he retired in July, Mr. Sauer received the bank's highest award, the gold Distinguished Service Medal.

Mr. Sauer, who was noted for his work in international trade and finance, was born in Jersey City, N.J., and grew up in Dunellen, N.J. He graduated from Princeton and earned a law degree at Yale University.

He moved to Washington in 1934 and began his government career as an attorney with the Reconstruction Finance Corp. The Export-Import Bank, an independent agency of the U.S. government that helps finance U.S. export sales, was organized in that year and Mr. Sauer became one of its first employes, joining as an assistant counsel.

Except for World II service as a lieutenant commander in the Navy and ther years 1953 to 1955, when he was chief of the international tax division at the Treasury Department, his career was at the bank.

He was named an assistant general counsel in 1945 and general counsel in 1947. In 1955, he was appointed executive vice president. He held that post until 1962, when president John F. Kennedy appointed him first vice president and vice chairman of the board. He continued in those posts under presidents Johnson, Nixon and Ford.

Mr. Sauer, who lived in Washington, was a member of the New Jersey and D.C. bar associations. He also was a member of the University Club here.

His survivors include two sisters, Catherine King and Dorothy Sauer, both of Washington.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Walter C. Sauer Fund, Princeton University, Princeton, N.J., 08540.