Boeing CEO Says US Must Lead on Trade or Lose Out to Rivals Getty Images

Boeing CEO Says US Must Lead on Trade or Lose Out to Rivals

“If we do not lead when it comes to writing these rules, our competitors will write them for us,” Dennis Muilenburg said.

Boeing Co. Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg called on the Trump administration and Congress to ensure that U.S. companies have the tools necessary to compete in a global economy, from a reformed tax code to financial support from the moribund U.S. Export-Import Bank.

For Chicago-based Boeing, the largest U.S. exporter, that means a reformed tax code, a “fair” global trade system, regulatory changes that make it easier to close foreign defense sales and opening the ex-im bank for business, Muilenburg said Friday in prepared remarks to the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association. The U.S. needs to continue to play a leading role when it comes to global trade agreements, he said. 

“If we do not lead when it comes to writing these rules, our competitors will write them for us,” he said. “For Boeing, that could result in higher costs, disrupted supply chains and regulations that diminish our ability to sell products around the world.”

The ex-im bank, which helps finance foreign customers’ purchases of U.S. goods, has remained effectively closed for business for more than a year because it doesn’t have a quorum of directors needed to approve financing for sales over $10 million. Senator Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama and opponent of the bank, has blocked nominations to the bank’s board, criticizing it as “corporate welfare” for companies such as Boeing and General Electric Co.

Reauthorization for the bank was approved by a super-majority of U.S. Congress last year, “which only makes the current lack of a board quorum all the more frustrating,” Muilenburg said. He warned that international buyers of American-made goods, from tractors to airplanes, may take their business to one of the dozens other countries offering export credit, costing U.S. jobs.

The White House last month asked Congress to jump-start the credit agency as part of a stopgap spending measure needed to keep the government open after Dec. 9.

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