The numbers behind the Export-Import bank

The Export-Import Bank of the United States is a government agency that facilitates exports by U.S. companies. It's been doing this since 1934.

It works like this: A U.S. company wants to sell stuff to a foreign buyer but the foreign buyer needs some kind of financing to buy that stuff. Sometimes, U.S. banks won't offer that financing because the foreign buyer is in an unstable country, or perhaps because the bank doesn't think it's worth it to send someone abroad to vet a small loan that won't be repaid for five years, or otherwise considers lending abroad too risky. And sometimes, foreign banking systems aren't robust enough to offer these kinds of loans themselves, or they charge very high interest rates.

The Export-Import Bank offers insurance on loans to convince a bank to make that loan to a foreign buyer, and sometimes the Export-Import Bank will make that loan itself.

The total amount of international trade facilitated by this in 2013 comes out to $36 billion, a small fraction of the $2.3 trillion in U.S. exports. But the support goes primarily (90 percent) to small businesses, and the large businesses that do use these tools are generally of major economic significance, such as satellite or airline manufacturers.

1.2 million

The number of jobs the Ex-Im Bank reports it has supported since 2009

$2 billion

The amount of money the bank has generated over and above the cost of its operations over the last five years

0.211 percent

The bank's default rate, as reported to Congress this year. That's less than a quarter of one percent.

59

 The number of other export credit agencies around the world competing with the U.S.'s Ex-Im Bank.

(Source: The Export-Import Bank of the United States)

About the author

Sabri Ben-Achour is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the New York City bureau. He covers Wall Street, finance, and anything New York and money related.

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