Exim at 50

VETERAN political watchers are often bemused at the way US governmental agencies come and go in the federal hierarchy. One administration's bold new agency designed to solve some pressing problem is as often as not jettisoned by the next administration that comes to power. So when a federal agency is around long enough to celebrate its 50th anniversary - as the US Export-Import Bank is doing this month - one cannot help but take careful note.

The US Export-Import Bank (''Exim,'' as it is dubbed in Washington) has to be reckoned a major political and economic success story. Established by the Roosevelt administration in 1934, the bank provides low-cost loans and loan guarantees to buyers of US exports. Since its inception, Exim has supported over billion in dividends in its 50 years. Not a bad track record for an agency originally designed in large part to expedite exports to the Soviet Union. Today , Exim-financed exports go to every part of the globe.

Exim now is seeking an appropriation package of about $14 billion for fiscal year 1985 - $3.8 billion in direct credit authority and another $10 billion for insurance guarantee programs. That is roughly the same as the agency's budget for fiscal year 1984. Congress should approve the request as quickly as possible. US firms, after all, have been having a particularly difficult time selling products abroad recently, what with the high value of the dollar vis-a-vis other currencies. That has meant that US goods are more expensive than goods from overseas competitors. Exim thus provides essential loan backing to support the sale of American goods.

Some 54 nations now have government export banks. But over the years Exim is the bank that has set the standard for what such an institution should be all about.

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