Boeing will roll out the newest iteration of its 787 Dreamliner at its facility in North Charleston, South Carolina, this afternoon, but for the aerospace giant and a number of other U.S. manufacturers, the big reveal will come via the event's special guest. President Donald Trump is expected to make an announcement about the future of the Export-Import Bank, which has been operating with limited authority for more than 18 months.
Democrats expect Trump to come out in support of the U.S. federal export credit agency, which backstops loans made to foreign companies seeking to purchase U.S. export goods. Doing so would represent a reversal of views the president expressed on the campaign trail when the then-candidate said the United States could "do well without it." Embracing the Export-Import Bank now would also signal a warming of relations between the new president and major U.S. manufacturers, like Boeing and GE, both of which have drawn criticism from Trump over the high cost of U.S. government contracts and the outsourcing of jobs.
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The president could also choose to say nothing at all on the matter, a gesture that would be equally significant. A contingent of Congressional Republicans view Ex-Im (as the agency is often known) as a kind of "corporate welfare" in which the government assistance in helping U.S. companies secure business abroad disproportionately benefits just a handful of large corporations, Boeing among them.
However, North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp said last week following a lunch at the White House that President Trump told her he would soon nominate someone to Ex-Im's five-member bipartisan board to provide it with a quorum, breaking the logjam that has kept the agency operating with just two board members (and at a very limited capacity) since 2015.
Ex-Im guarantees billions of dollars of U.S. trade financing annually, supporting thousands of U.S. jobs. But in June 2015, Congressional Republicans allowed Ex-Im's authorization to expire, arguing that the agency disproportionately benefits a handful of companies like Boeing and GE that have a lot of political clout. Though Ex-Im was revived six months later, Republicans blocked nominations of new board members appointed by the Obama administration.