FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 23, 2001
Marsha Berry (202)565-3200
After nearly four years as Chairman and President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank), James A. Harmon will step down from this position on May 29, 2001.
Chairman Harmon headed the Ex-Im Bank from July 1997 until the present. During those years, the world economy became more dependent than ever on trade, and as a result Mr. Harmon focused the Bank's attention on maximizing support for exporters and changing the Bank to maintain the competitive position of U.S. exporters in the world marketplace. During this period, Ex-Im Bank supported approximately $60 billion of U.S. exports to more than 100 countries. While heading Ex-Im Bank, Harmon successfully guided it through the financial crises that hit economies from Asia to South America to Russia. At the same time he was a forceful advocate for expanding the Bank's business into new markets with new and flexible programs.
I am very proud of my years at Ex-Im Bank and consider my work here a privilege and an honor. I leave the Bank at a crucial time, but I feel certain that the Bank is well positioned to advance its important mission of supporting jobs through exports, Harmon said.
Always conscious of changing world circumstances, Mr. Harmon led the Bank's Africa initiative, increasing support for exports to sub-Saharan Africa from $50 million in 1998 to nearly $1 billion in year 2000. In December 2000, in an effort to respond to the improved economic conditions in Russia, the Bank entered into an agreement with fifteen Russian banks to provide funding for U.S. companies seeking to provide goods and services to that region.
During his tenure, Mr. Harmon encouraged the establishment of new approaches to assist and attract exporters such as financing in local currency, lending to subsovereign entities and making the Bank more responsive to its clients. In January, Ex-Im Bank announced the first significant modifications in policies affecting co-financing, local costs and foreign content in nearly fifteen years. These changes help bring the Bank into alignment with the other export credit agencies around the world and will allow the Bank to provide competitive and flexible financing to is customers.
Mr. Harmon leaves the Bank at a time of heightened world competition which has translated into increased activity for export credit support. At the same time, budget cuts are forecast for many federal programs. The likelihood of decreased federal funding makes the private sector risk-sharing initiative, recommended by Mr. Harmon last year, even more important. Mr. Harmon believes this type of public-private partnership represents the future of US export trade.
Prior to joining Ex-Im Bank, Mr. Harmon spent 38 years as an investment banker in New York City. Those years were spent at Wertheim & Co., an international investment bank, which in 1986 partnered with Schroders plc (U.K.) to form Wertheim Schroder & Co. When Mr. Harmon left the firm in 1997, he had served as Chairman and CEO for ten years.
Mr. Harmon will return to investment banking to advise and assist developing world countries and U.S. companies to expand in international markets.