Boeing may move parts of its operations to other countries in light of the uncertainty over the Export-Import Bank after Congress allowed its charter to expire earlier this summer.
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“If there’s not an Ex-Im Bank, we’re actively considering now moving key pieces of our company to other countries,” Boeing Chairman James McNerney Jr. said Wednesday at an event hosted by The Economic Club of Washington. “We would’ve never considered that before this craziness on Ex-Im.”
McNerney’s remarks came the same day the House left town for the August recess after passing a highway bill that did not include an amendment to revive the bank — its charter expired June 30. Earlier this week, the Senate approved a measure that would have extended the bank’s charter to September 2019.
The 80-year-old bank is the official U.S. credit export agency that provides loans and loan guarantees to help finance the sale of U.S. goods to foreign buyers. Its supporters, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, say it plays a critical role in helping U.S. businesses abroad. Its detractors, including many Tea Party lawmakers and conservative groups like Club for Growth and Heritage Action, contend it’s an example of corporate cronyism. About 60 other countries have credit export agencies similar to Ex-Im. Until recently, the bank’s charter was regularly reauthorized by Congress without much debate.
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Boeing, a top U.S. exporter, is the biggest beneficiary of the bank in terms of dollars. McNerney emphasized the importance of the bank to the company and said he is now questioning whether it was the right decision to keep Boeing jobs in the United States.
“Boeing depends on [the bank],” he said. “Over the last decade, while our competitors set up shop in lots of different countries, we’ve kept our jobs and our technology here, in part because of this arrangement. But right now, as the politicians have fun with this thing…I’m beginning to question the strategy of making and designing everything in the United States.”
A Boeing spokesman on Thursday declined to specify the potential number of jobs or programs that could be moved overseas.
McNerney’s comments were first reported by Reuters.
During the first quarter of the year, Boeing had 36 lobbyists on contract who spent at least part of their time lobbying on Ex-Im, including former top aides to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).
McNerney called Congress’ inability to bring renewing the bank’s charter up for a vote “a triumph of ideology over any description of pragmatism,” and said reauthorizing it should be “a free throw, not a three-point shot.”
“I am more worried about it today than I ever have been,” he said. “I’ve always had a view that sanity would prevail on issues of pragmatism. It’s a sign of disfunctionality of this town now.”