Reasons to Oppose the Ex-Im Bank, Part 3: It Favors Big Business

The Export-Import Bank’s charter expires on June 30. This series of posts makes the case for closing Ex-Im, one argument at a time. See also parts 1 and 2.

Ex-Im officials claim the vast majority of its lending activities go to smaller businesses. This is true by number of loans—in 2013, 2,160 out of 2,775 businesses receiving Ex-Im financing were small businesses, or just more than 78 percent. But Ex-Im’s claim is false by the more important metric of dollar value of loans. In most years, more than 80 percent of Ex-Im financing, measured in dollars, goes to big firms. Also worth noting: Ex-Im’s in-house definition of “small business” covers firms with up to 1,500 employees.

Ex-Im’s charter states “the Bank shall make available, from the aggregate loan, guarantee, and insurance authority available to it, an amount to finance exports directly by small business concerns … which shall be not less than 20 percent of such authority for each fiscal year.”

Small business’ actual share of Ex-Im financing has failed to meet that 20 percent threshold in 2011 (18.45 percent), 2012 (17.11 percent), and 2013 (18.96 percent). 2014 was the first year Ex-Im met that threshold since at least 2010.

Small business advocates who favor keeping or expanding Ex-Im should note that Ex-Im gives financing to approximately one in 10,000 small businesses. Considering approximately 20 other agencies give subsidies to small business, Ex-Im’s closure would have very little effect on the amount of subsidies small businesses receive. Most of its closure’s impact would be felt by its top ten beneficiaries, all of which are large companies by anyone’s definition of the term.

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