John A. Bohn Jr., president of the U.S. government's Export-Import Bank, promised Congress on Tuesday to take more of the risk in financing U.S. exports because commercial banks don't want to.
''Commercial banks have largely withdrawn from financing exports, shutting out American exporters from already shrinking developing country markets . . . ." he said."Trade finance departments (in commercial banks) have been eliminated or drastically cut back because commercial banks have little appetite for country risk."
"Country risk" refers to the fact that some countries are less likely than others to keep up with payments on their debts. Brazil and the Ivory Coast, for example, have suspended interest payments on most of what they owe. Mr. Bohn did not mention specific countries in an appearance before the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations of the Senate Banking Committee.
He said it had become clear that his bank has to assume a broader range of risks.
For the year beginning Oct. 1, Mr. Bohn asked for $1 billion to make loans, including $200 million for "tied aid." Tied aid requires the borrowing country to use the money for purchases in the lending country. It is made more attractive to the borrower by use of some funds originally meant by Congress as aid to poor countries rather than aid to U.S. exporters. Aid funds carry a low interest rate, and thus are cheaper for the borrowing country.
The Reagan's administration says it opposes the practice and only uses aid funds to help U.S. exporters because other countries, especially France and Japan, use their aid in the same way.