(Adds details, comment by U.S. Commerce Department official)
By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON, July 6 (Reuters) - Loss of U.S. Export-Import Bank financing would put Boeing Co at a “huge competitive disadvantage” since its rivals still have access to such financing support, the head of the company’s commercial aircraft division told reporters on Monday.
Ray Conner, president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said Boeing was seeking to reassure its customers that the U.S. Congress would soon reauthorize the bank’s charter, but said the fact it had lapsed at the end of last month created some doubt.
“We absolutely need Ex-Im Bank to compete on a level playing field,” Conner said after a ceremony marking delivery of the first 787 Dreamliner to Vietnam Airlines, an aircraft that was purchased with the help of Ex-Im financing.
Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of the Vietnamese Communist party attended the ceremony at Ronald Reagan National Airport, along with 200 other U.S. and Vietnamese officials and industry executives.
“To not have that, we’re just tying one hand behind our back, as far as I‘m concerned,” Conner said. “The competition is not going to back away from that kind of financing.”
He did not name specific rivals, but said some were capitalizing on the situation by highlighting uncertainty about whether Boeing’s customers would have access to trade credits in the future.
Ex-Im Chairman Fred Hochberg told Reuters the bank’s staff was putting together an orderly liquidation plan and completing transactions that had already been approved, but the lapse of its charter meant it could not work on any new deals.
Seven conservative Republican senators last week demanded the bank disclose plans to begin liquidating its assets after its charter expired amid congressional inaction.
Ex-Im has said it will stay open to continue servicing $112 billion in existing obligations. The agency’s operating budget has been approved through Sept. 30.
Democrats and moderate Republicans hope to revive the trade bank later this month by attaching charter renewal legislation to a “must-pass” highway and rail transit funding bill.
Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews told Reuters the Obama administration was concerned about the lapse of the bank’s charter and hoped lawmakers would restart the bank soon.
“By unilaterally disarming and shutting down the Export-Import Bank, it creates a market advantage for our competitors from (countries like) China, Germany and Japan,” Andrews said. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Andrew Hay)