GE may shift up to 500 jobs overseas due to Ex-Im bank closing

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GE says it may move 500 jobs overseas due to the lack of funding from the U.S. Export-Import bank

General Electric says it may move up to 500 jobs overseas from the U.S. because Congress has not reauthorized the Export-Import Bank, a government agency that had provided low-cost financing to foreign customers of U.S. companies.

Many other countries have their own version of the Ex-Im bank to help finance exports from their manufacturers. GE argues it needs access to that kind of financing to make its business building turbines used in power plants competitive.

It said that next year it will shift 100 jobs building small gas turbines used to generate electricity from a factory near Houston, Texas to facilities in Hungary and China.

Still, 500 other jobs are expected to remain at the Houston plant.

In addition, GE says it had planned to add 400 jobs at turbine factories in Greenville, S.C., Bangor, Maine and Schenectady, N.Y. if it wins several contracts.

Instead, those 400 jobs would be added in France, where that country's version of the Ex-Im bank has agreed to provide financing.

Government support for the U.S. Ex-Im bank expired in July, despite a major push to reauthorize it from business interests such the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and major corporations such as GE (GE) and Boeing (BA).

Related: Time runs out on Ex-Im bank

While large businesses were among the major beneficiaries of the Ex-Im bank's financing, thousands of small businesses used the Ex-Im bank to finance their overseas sales. But some members of Congress, led by some conservative Republicans, argued the bank amounted to corporate welfare.

GE's statement again called on Congress to act to reauthorize the bank, which still exists but is not currently allowed to grant new financing.

"The truth is that Ex-Im supports thousands of U.S. jobs and has returned $7 billion to the U.S. Treasury over the last 20 years -- a rare government program that supports the economy while cutting the deficit," said GE vice chairman John Rice. "In a competitive world, we are left with no choice but to invest in non-U.S. manufacturing and move production to countries that support high-tech exporters."

But opponents of the bank have vowed to continue to fight its reauthorization. They argue that just over 1% of the nation's exports are financed by the Ex-Im bank.

"The challenge for supporters of a competitive free-market economy is to make sure Ex-Im stays expired," said Jeb Hensarling earlier this summer. The Texas Republican is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. "Ex-Im is a part of yesterday's economy."

Related: Is this government agency worth saving?

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the number of jobs the GE may shift outside of the U.S.

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