NEW YORK _ General Electric, a longtime beneficiary of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, is moving 500 jobs to France, Hungary and China after Congress halted the agency’s ability to offer new financing.
“We’ve got $11 billion of active tenders that require some form of export credit financing,” GE Vice Chairman John Rice said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “We’ve got to start making some choices about where those products will be manufactured in order to qualify for export credit financing. Frankly, we’ve been pushed to do this.”
Positions now in South Carolina, Maine, New York and Texas, including some Houston-based packaging operations for gas turbines, are being shifted, GE said. A new agreement with French export credit provider Coface to back global power projects will trigger a shift to that country, GE said.
GE has been threatening such a move for months as it urges lawmakers to revive the agency, which provided almost $1 billion in credit assistance to the company’s international customers last year. GE says the loss of Ex-Im financing imperils overseas sales of products such as diesel locomotives, gas turbines and jet engines.
The 81-year-old Ex-Im bank provides loans, credit guarantees and insurance to aid sales by U.S. companies including Boeing and Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE. The bank’s charter expired June 30 when Republican members of Congress, who say Ex-Im benefits only a few large corporations that don’t need government assistance, blocked a reauthorization vote.
While about 55 percent of GE’s 305,000-workforce was outside the U.S. at the end of 2014, the shifting of domestic jobs is a sensitive political issue. GE also pledged to create a net of 1,000 jobs in France as part of the acquisition of the energy business at Alstom, which won European regulators’ approval last week.
GE’s Ex-Im lobbying efforts in Congress include bringing smaller suppliers to Washington to show the fallout from the bank’s closure.
“This is not just about big companies like GE and Boeing,” Rice said. “That’s what the opponents of Ex-Im would want you to believe. It’s about the little companies that don’t have options. We can move production to France, but they can’t necessarily.”
More than 50 countries have export credit financing agencies, Rice said. Nations such as France have been “rolling out the red carpet” to woo U.S. manufacturers that may be harmed by the Ex-Im charter lapse, he said.
The fight over the bank is also affecting GE’s search for a possible new headquarters away from its longtime home in Connecticut. The company has ruled out cities such as Dallas over concerns about some lawmakers’ opposition to reauthorizing Ex-Im.