Annual Conference Welcome Address 2016

Don't Be Sidelined: The Case for Trade in an Era of Opportunity
Fred P. Hochberg
April 7, 2016 - Washington, DC

Annual Conference Welcome Address 2016

Don’t Be Sidelined: The Case for Trade in an Era of Opportunity

Chairman Fred P. Hochberg


Good morning, and welcome to the 2016 Export-Import Bank Annual Conference!


Many of you might recognize some of these motivational posters from the 1930s—so I thought I’d share a few with you today.


Now, I walked onto the EXIM stage seven years ago next month.


The spring of 2009—credit was freezing, banks weren’t lending, trade was coming to a standstill, and communities were being devastated.


America was losing,on average, more than 700,000 jobs a month.


That spring, I had the honor of being appointed by President Obama to lead an agency that was focused on jobs, and jobs alone.


Since then, we have all seen sweeping changes in both our nation’s economy and the global economy.


President Obama launched the National Export Initiative from this very stage in 2010.


And today, the United States exports more goods and services than at any other time in our history.


Exports totaled 1.6 trillion dollars in 2009.


Five years later, they topped 2.3 trillion dollars—an all-time high—in spite of strong headwinds.


And those exports mean jobs—good jobs—in fact they have contributed to the longest streak of private sector job growth in our nation’s history.


And that is what has made this work so fulfilling.


I have had the opportunity—for seven years—to walk the shop floors and innovation labs where jobs are created.


It’s thrilling to see entrepreneurs and business leaders putting people on the job—innovating, creating new products and services, building companies, and EXporting to the world beyond our shores.


I’ve also learned just how competitive it is for you,America’s business leaders.


The global economy has rapidly become more complex and more challenging than ever.


And American businesses and workers need more tools—not fewer—to compete and create jobs.


Companies like Darley, in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin have been innovating and making state-of-the-art fire trucks since 1925.


Every day they face tough competition throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Exports at Darley directly support 100 jobs—and many more in their supply chain—due to financing from EXIM.


Acrow Bridge is another example facing tough competition from France, Austria, the UK and China.  Our financing closed sales in Cameroon and Zambia and supported 200 jobs across three states


Then there’s AirTractor in Olney, Texas, with a population of 3200, where exports financed by EXIM support 135 jobs—And let me tell you, in Olney, AirTractor is a big business!


EXIM has also supported the sale of innovative locomotives to South Africa—locomotives that haul more freight, use less fuel, and cut CO2 emissions.


They face relentless competition from China and financing was key to making that sale .The result: nearly one thousand jobs supported at GE—and even more in their supply chain.


There’s FirstSolar, a manufacturer of some of the most innovative thin-film solar modules you’ll find anywhere in the world. EXIM was the largest source of renewable financing in India in 2011, and India is ramping up their commitment to solar power.


And that means more jobs here at home.


We even support exports of pickles and ice cream to China, thanks to Jenny’s and Bassetts.


There’s the Ridge Hospital in Accra, Ghana which provides some of the best medical care in West Africa.


And then there’s aerospace and satellites where America is in the lead in terms of technology and innovation and where we face rigorous competition from Germany, France, the UK, Canada, Russia and China.


Innovative products need dependable financing solutions. Last year, EXIM financing supported more than 35,000 jobs in aerospace industries.


And since 2009,nearly half a million.


We work with large companies and small ones—all exporting, all innovating, all facing competition and all adding jobs.


In fact, thanks to our small business team, since 2009 we have partnered with more than 5,000 small businesses. Some of them exported for the very first time.


Some of them expanded into new markets


And some—as a result of their exporting prowess—are no longer small.


We’ve also financed more minority and women entrepreneurs under President Obama than the two previous administrations combined.


In total, EXIM Bank has financed nearly $235 billion worth of exports since President Obama took office, one-and-a-half times more than the previous administration.


And those exports–supported more than million jobs since 2009—and we’re not done yet.


In 2015, we generated more than $430 million for you, the taxpayers.


Since 2009, that number tops $2 billion.


The end of our fiscal year is also a bittersweet day for our Chief Financial Officer—all that cash leaving our account, but going to a good place: you, the taxpayers.


We have also reduced our expenses and today, we run the Bank for 30% less than in 2009.


Let me just repeat that: we did more work in the last seven years than at any other time in the Bank’s history, and we did it at a lower cost.


Our default rate—which we report to Congress every 90 days—stands at 0.248%.


OR, less than one quarter of one percent.


And together we reauthorized the Bank twice.


Today, we are leaner and better prepared to meet the future needs of US exporters.


Our team is smarter, more knowledgeable, and has greater expertise than at any time in the Bank’s 82 year history.


We are public servants—public servants who know the value of your dollar, who have business savvy and financial expertise.


We’re here to serve you—our customers, our taxpayers, and our country.


We’ve launched express insurance and we’ve tapped into capital markets, finding new

and more effective ways to support U.S. exports and U.S. jobs.


And one thing is for sure: the demands for innovative thinking and innovative solutions in the global economy will only increase in the years to come.


I have full confidence that the EXIM team is ready to meet those challenges.


I’d like to ask all the members of our team that are in the room today to stand and be acknowledged.


Please join me in giving them a round of applause.


In addition, we have worked with a first rate group of directors:


  • Bijan Kian
  • Diane Farrell
  • Sean Mulvaney
  • Pat Loui
  • Larry Walther
  • And John McAdams


All of whom have completed their terms.


That leaves just Vice Chair Felton and me as the sole members of our Board.


Let me also pause for a moment and acknowledge our Vice Chair.


Wanda has been steadfast in her commitment to the Bank. She joined EXIM right out of college. Then, following a successful 30-year career in the private sector, was nominated twice by President Obama to serve as Vice Chair.


She has harnessed her extensive experience in sub-Saharan Africa putting a sharp focus on our work there.


She’s been at my side for most of my time here—someone I rely on, and someone I admire.  Please give her a round of applause.


But she and I simply can’t do this alone.


No, really, legally, we can’t do this alone.


Back in January, President Obama nominated Mark McWatters to join Vice Chair Felton and me so we can once again have a quorum and be fully operational. 


Our country demands that, our workers demand that.


So…I remain optimistic on all fronts.


Even at today’s reduced growth rates the global economy will add the equivalent GDP of another Japan or Germany in 2016, 2017, and beyond. That’s a lot of growth, that’s a lot of demand.


Since January, I have traveled to 10 cities across our country and 10 more around the world to let exporters and buyers alike know that EXIM stands ready to support US jobs in the ever more competitive world we now inhabit.


I’ve been to Singapore, India, Bangladesh, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, to name a few.


I have seen firsthand opportunities in power, rail, aerospace, and telecommunications.


Opportunities for your goods and services.


Goods and services that will give countries and their citizens the tools and infrastructure they need to build a better life.


I even see opportunities in the decline of oil and commodity prices.


This dramatic change is transforming economies of both producers and consumers. 


In short, economies are being forced to rethink, re-tool and reform.


They are eliminating subsidies and becoming more market oriented.


They are more aggressively rooting out corruption.


They are changing their tax codes, bankruptcy laws and state owned enterprises.


They are freeing up capital controls, exchange rates and liberalizing energy policies


They are addressing education, health care, infrastructure development with new vigor and purpose.


They are making it easier to do business, cutting red tape, nurturing small businesses to build their economies and to empower a growing middle class.


These efforts are paying off—building a more robust and sustainable global economy.


These changes are, in large part, being driven by that same growing middle class, more and more people have income beyond subsistence, they are better informed, and they want change, they want a better life.


Now, make no mistake, this is hard to do. The pace of change will vary country by country, and it will take extraordinary leadership to bring about the reforms many people seek.


That’s because people demand choices in politics and in the marketplace.


They know they have options—on where to live, how to live, about educating their children—options they want to exercise.


And you can play a part in meeting those needs.


Not only in selling goods and services but in working together.


Because when we build things together, we form deeper more durable ties to people in other countries.


They want to do business with you, they want to work with you, they want to buy from you, they want to learn from you.


Our conference today brings together buyers and leadersfrom more than 40 different countries.


I hope you get to meet them, learn from them, and do business with them.


Together, we can support jobs here at home and make the world a better place.


But, if I leave you with one thought….in this final conference of my term as President and Chairman of the Export-Import Bank, let it be this:


Don’t go home.


Keep looking further beyond…for that opportunity, for that next sale.


And stay engaged.


I know all of you put a lot of time and effort—I would venture to say 365 days a year—focusing on tax rates and regulations that impact your business.


That engagement is ongoing and rigorous. I am suggesting you put that same effort, that same passion, into creating an environment and a dialogue around global engagement, trade, and exports.


It’s vital to your business, it’s vital to your growth and success, and it’s vital to our economy.


I believe in trade.


You engage in trade.


Your employees rely on trade.


I believe EXIM, along with the trade deals being considered—the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership—all three are tools that make America more competitive in the world’s largest markets and support more jobs here at home.


Twenty years ago there were perhaps a dozen such trade agreements.


Today, there are more than six hundred.


And we simply can’t afford to sit on the sidelines.


We need every tool at our disposal.


But, our national conversation isn’t there.


And we have to change that.


If we don’t, we risk losing opportunities, we risk losing jobs—we isolate ourselves,

only to watch the world change around us.


We still have a lot to learn about the gig-economy, the service-economy, the sharing-economy, and how all of these will continue to reshape the global economy and, in turn, job creation.


We can’t afford to be sidelined.


Darley can’t afford it.


Acrow Bridge can’t afford it.


Jenny’s can’t afford it.


And YOU can’t afford it, either.


For EXIM Bank to continue to be your tool to reduce risk and unleash opportunity, we need your continued engagement.


EXIM—and the entire trade agenda—need the engagement of your employees and your supply chains.


Every time an employee walks into a Boeing assembly plant, the first thing she sees and the first thing every employee sees are the painted tailfins of the planes destined for overseas.


And it’s not just Boeing. When I visited A.Z.Z. in Mississippi, the factory’s lunchroom had a wall of flags with all their customers from around the world. It was a simple but strong reminder to every employee, as they took a break from their hard work, that this small factory in Jackson was truly part of the global economy.


And you can do that, too.


EXIM needs all of these voices.


Late last year, President Obama signed into law EXIM Bank’s reauthorization through 2019.


That’s because of your efforts to make your voices heard in your communities and here in Washington.


2019 isn’t that far off—we have no time to lose.


As Chairman and leader of the extraordinary EXIM team, I’m proud of our contributions to the U.S. economy. It’s thrilling and exciting to work alongside entrepreneurs and business leaders as they create innovative products and services, put more Americans to work, and export to the world beyond our shores—backed by our financing.


I’ve also learned about the new challenges we face in this increasingly fast-paced and competitive global economy.


It’s tougher, it requires more smarts, expertise, agility, and ingenuity.


And I also know that as Americans, we’re up to the task.


I know that because of you, our exporters, our customers, our team, and American workers.


I have learned so much from all of you.


I believe in our work.


And all of us still have a lot of work ahead of us.


Our country depends on us.


So, don’t go home!


Go embrace the world.


Create lots of good jobs.


This final conference of the Obama Administrationis my last chance to address all of you as Chairman of EXIM Bank.


It has been a great honor and privilege to serve in this Administration—and to serve you.


In fact, it’s been the best job of my life.


And, as the son of an immigrant who built a global business—and created thousands of American jobs—I am extremely proud of what we’ve all come here to do.


As my mother would say, “only in America could I have done this.”


Thank you.