Category Archives: International

OPIC “Paying Off Friends In The Climate Change Business?”

It’s possible. See here for more. Even some Republican presidential candidates, as establishmentarian as they are, are getting on board. Hopefully the Democratic field gets on board.

GOP Field Mobilizes against Cronyism?

Don’t hold your breath, but here is a small bit of optimism.

A Hammer Blow to Cronyism?

Nice writeup of my recent OPIC paper by the Daily Caller’s Guy Bentley.

Read the whole paper here.

New CEI Paper: The Case for Closing OPIC

OPIC is the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. It is a federal agency that offers financing for international projects by U.S. companies. Intended mainly as an economic development tool for developing countries, OPIC is also a way to give assistance to U.S. companies, and serves as a foreign policy tool for the federal government. In recent years, OPIC has also been captured by renewable energy interests, who now receive roughly 40 percent of its business.

OPIC’s charter expires on September 30, unless Congress renews it—in this way, its business model is similar to the now-expired Export Import Bank, which also has charters of finite length. In a new CEI paper, released today, I outline the case for closing OPIC in more detail:

Only about 5 percent of OPIC’s business goes to countries deemed as among the least developed by the United Nations. OPIC overwhelmingly works with big businesses, with a literal top 10 list of its beneficiaries capturing nearly 90 percent of its business in some years. The jobs OPIC supports come at a cost of nearly $329,000 each. The agency’s political risk insurance    program encourages bad behavior by predatory governments around the globe. More than 40 percent of OPIC’s business goes to a single industry—renewable energy—known more for its   political acumen than creating consumer value.

Read the whole paper here. If you prefer a one-page version, see the press release.

EVERYBODY PANIC

Actual headline: China may be using sea to hide its submarines

Export-Import Bank Update

Things have been busy on the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank front. For those not in the know, the Ex-Im Bank makes loans and guarantees loans for U.S. exporters, as well as their foreign customers. For example, if a foreign airline wants to buy a new plane, Ex-Im will arrange favorable financing terms if it buys that plane from U.S.-based Boeing.

Ex-Im’s critics argue that the bank is a corporate welfare program, and is vulnerable to favoritism and corruption. I compiled several reasons to oppose Ex-Im in this paper. Ex-Im’s defenders counter that Ex-Im is necessary to increase U.S. exports and support American jobs, though buying that argument requires ignoring that 98 percent of U.S. exports happen without Ex-Im’s involvement, and that there are other, possibly better uses for the capital Ex-Im sits on.

Unlike most other agencies, Ex-Im has a built-in sunset, meaning it will automatically cease to exist unless Congress periodically votes to renew its charter. This led to a bitter political fight last fall, when Ex-Im’s charter was renewed until this June 30. Typical reauthorizations last for four or five years, so this nine-month reauthorization was a significant concession to reformers. As June 30 approaches, the Ex-Im battle is heating up once again. At this point, it appears Congress will hold a vote in May on Ex-Im’s fate.

This week, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing, where Ex-Im head Fred Hochberg (see his written testimony here) defended his agency from Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), who wants to close the bank.

Also this week, the Justice Department charged former Ex-Im employee Johnny Gutierrez with bribery. Over the period 2006-2013, Gutierrez allegedly accepted $78,900 of cash and other improper gifts. Diane Katz recently unearthed 74 cases of alleged corruption among Ex-Im employees from 2009-14, an impressive achievement for an agency with only 400 employees.

As Ex-Im’s beneficiaries turn up the political heat, rumors are swirling that Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who came out publicly against Ex-Im last year, is changing his mind and might favor reauthorization. Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), who is sponsoring an Ex-Im reauthorization bill, has been working on McCarthy for some time. Boeing, which alone accounts for nearly half of Ex-Im’s business, has spent $69 million on lobbying since 2012, much of it in support of Ex-Im, and is pressing very hard to keep Ex-Im’s doors open.

Delta Airlines has been the loudest corporate voice opposing Ex-Im, but it has only spent $10 million in lobbying since 2012, barely one seventh of Boeing’s total. Delta argues that Ex-Im subsidizes its foreign competitors when they buy Boeing jets, putting Delta, which pays full price for Boeing’s planes, at an artificial disadvantage.

Finally, the bank claims to be a champion of small business, but as a new Mercatus Center paper by Veronique de Rugy and Diane Katz shows, Ex-Im heavily favors big businesses over small businesses

At this point it’s hard to say how this fight will end. The economic case against Ex-Im is airtight, and many key members of Congress want to close the bank. Inertia is the strongest force in politics and the closest thing to an immortal being is a government agency, but this is one issue where reformers have a legitimate chance of victory.

CEI Podcast for April 17, 2014: Brexit Strategy

brexit-logo
Have a listen here.

Iain Murray, CEI’s Vice President for Strategy, along with Freedom Association Director Rory Broomfield, won second place in the Institute for Economic Affairs’ Brexit Competition. The goal of the competition is to devise a strategy for Britain’s exit from the European Union.