Remarks by EXIM President and Chairman Kimberly A. Reed at the Indo-Pacific Business Forum

Chairman Kimberly A. Reed
November 4, 2019

Thank you, Mr. Pathomsak for your very kind introduction and thank you to my fellow panelists, Dr. Kobsak Pootrakool, deputy secretary general to the prime minister of Thailand; Jay Collins, vice chairman of Corporate Investment Banking at Citi; and Brian Davis, president of Honeywell ASEAN, as we gather to discuss “Expanding Commercial Opportunities in the Indo-Pacific.”

It is an honor to be in Bangkok with nearly 1,000 of you representing more than 30 nations, including 40 executives from American companies. Leadership from nine U.S. departments and agencies and 19 U.S. ambassadors and chiefs of missions join me here to show our interest in deepening commercial ties with you. 

I also want to underscore President Trump’s commitment to this vital region that he outlined when he visited Vietnam in 2017 and in several trips to the Indo-Pacific Region since then. Vice President Pence re-affirmed that commitment at last year’s East Asia Summit in Singapore.

The president envisions a free and open Indo-Pacific: “. . . a place where sovereign and independent nations, with diverse cultures and many different dreams, can all prosper side-by-side and thrive in freedom and in peace.”

For nearly a century, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) has worked to turn such a vision into reality. EXIM has a proud and distinguished history of supporting American companies—large and small—in their efforts to do business in the Indo-Pacific. EXIM approved its first transaction in this region more than 80 years ago. The agency approved a $22 million loan to China to assist in construction of the historic Burma Road.

In the decades since then, EXIM has worked with countries throughout the region. In the wake of World War II, EXIM helped with recovery efforts. EXIM’s first transaction with Vietnam was in 1956. The first transaction with Korea was in 1959. During the Asian financial crisis of the 1990s, EXIM reaffirmed its commitment by collaborating with other export credit agencies to help Indo-Pacific countries stay open for business by providing the financing the region needed. 

Since 2010, EXIM has provided more than $41 billion in support of American business in the Indo-Pacific region, including LNG projects in places such as Australia; aircraft in Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Vietnam; turbine generators in India; and a communications satellite in Vietnam. These projects, along with many small business deals, positively impacted the lives of millions of people while also supporting thousands of good jobs at home in the United States—a win-win. 

As you may know, EXIM is the official export credit agency of the United States. Our mission is to support U.S. jobs by helping businesses export American-made goods and services around the world. EXIM’s mission fits perfectly into the Trump Administration’s strategy for advancing two-way trade and investment in the Indo-Pacific region.

As you just witnessed with the signing ceremony here on stage with my Japanese counterpart, Nippon Export and Investment Insurance (NEXI) Chairman and CEO Atsuo Kuroda, EXIM is pleased to update an already successful agreement with NEXI in order to open up even more mutually beneficial opportunities for the United States and Japan. This agreement allows EXIM to help strengthen the energy security of Japan by opening up the potential for joint U.S.-Japan financing of American LNG shipments to Japan. At the same time, it will foster a more open and transparent market for energy in the entire Indo-Pacific region—with both the United States and Japan observing the transparency standards of the OECD.

I was especially honored to have U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross, an ex officio member of EXIM’s board of directors, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith Krach, and Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Joseph Young from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, to join me on stage for this signing ceremony.

Nearly 25 percent of EXIM’s current board-level pipeline includes applications for exports to Asia, including the information and communication technology (ICT) sector. Projects like this also build on EXIM’s historic support of the U.S. commercial space industry, which reaped economic and security benefits for the United States and its partners in the Indo-Pacific. These potential transactions would promote a private-sector-led growth of the ICT industry and the development of increased connectivity in the Indo-Pacific region.

EXIM works to advance the Trump Administration’s goal of strengthening and improving trading relationships worldwide. To achieve that, EXIM supports U.S. companies of all sizes—including America’s small businesses, which is a priority focus for me—to facilitate the export of American-made goods and services to the Indo-Pacific region. Let me give you some examples. 

Classic American Hardwoods is a small business based in Tennessee renowned for its hardwood lumber. EXIM export credit insurance allowed the company to find new markets in the Indo-Pacific region—including Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Indonesia. Those increased exports led to increased sales—which allowed the Classic American Hardwoods to rehire workers it had been forced to lay off during the 2008 economic downtown.

Last year, EXIM celebrated its first term-financing transaction in Cambodia. SCAFCO Grain Systems Company is a small business in Washington State that manufactures grain storage systems. The company has used EXIM financing since 1993, growing its overall sales and exporting to more than 80 countries. Last year, SCAFCO exported a state-of-the-art grain silo to Battambang, which will help the Cambodians in turn increase their rice exports.

In order to keep advancing our mission, EXIM needs to be reauthorized by the U.S. Congress. Without legislative action, EXIM’s operating authority will expire on November 21. I am engaged with congressional leaders to help ensure reauthorization so that EXIM can continue to support U.S. businesses and workers—including those who want to export to this important part of the world—in a very competitive global landscape.  EXIM has been fully re-opened for almost six months now, and we have been hard at work. We are committed to making EXIM even better by implementing reforms to increase transparency and effectiveness.

While the focus of this panel is not on national security, President Trump knows that economic security equals national security. Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, a previous EXIM critic, in a recent op-ed in Newsweek entitled “The Export-Import Bank Can Help with the China Challenge,” stated that “Congress should reauthorize the EXIM bank, so we can compete against the Chinese Communist Party’s economic strategy of world domination. . . . Without EXIM, there is no practical, clear way to compete against the ever-expanding Chinese economic-military machine. If we do nothing, the Chinese Communist Party’s power will grow, our economic and national security interests will diminish, and our very way of life could be consumed by a totalitarian system.” This is why I look forward to joining our tremendous National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien and the U.S. delegation later today at the East Asia Summit, which includes the ASEAN nations’ heads of state and government. This summit also is taking place here in Bangkok. 

I also appreciated U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s call for Congress to reauthorize EXIM in his remarks earlier at this forum. He understands the importance of EXIM’s certainty through a long-term Congressional reauthorization for the global markets—and, when this happens, the additional U.S. deals supporting U.S. jobs that could happen here in the Indo-Pacific region. 

EXIM looks forward to working with you and our other partners across the Indo-Pacific region to strengthen your economies by connecting you with quality ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ goods and services, and, when needed, by providing our loans, guarantees, and insurance to make these deals possible.

This forum offers a platform for business and government officials to discuss how trade, investment, and economic cooperation can strengthen those ties and create jobs and opportunities for the United States and our partners in the Indo-Pacific region. We share similar objectives of supporting jobs and improving lives.

Thank you again to the Thai government for hosting this important discussion—and to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand (AmCham), and the U.S. ASEAN Business Council (USABC) for their work—and for having me here today.