WASHINGTON President Donald Trump's nominee to be U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, said on Tuesday he is "awaiting instructions" from Trump on whether to support a restoration of the Export-Import Bank's full lending powers.
The U.S. government trade bank's loans have been capped at $10 million for more than a year because it has too few board members, with Republican opponents to the bank blocking recent nominees. The cap means that EXIM cannot finance the largest export U.S. products such as Boeing Co aircraft or Westinghouse nuclear reactors.
Asked by Senator Maria Cantwell at his confirmation hearing whether he supports nominating new board members at the bank as part of a broad trade strategy aimed at reducing U.S. trade deficits and boosting exports, Lighthizer said that decision would ultimately be up to Trump.
"I expect to do what the president instructs me to do when he instructs me to do it," said Lighthizer, a former USTR deputy in the Reagan administration and a steel industry trade lawyer.
Conservative Republicans in Congress have tried to kill EXIM because they view it as providing unnecessary "corporate welfare" and putting U.S. taxpayers at risk for foreign projects.
(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)