ALTHOUGH THE UNITED STATES has experienced a decline in many forms of heavy manufacturing, the nation's aircraft industry continues to be a world leader. U.S. firms such as Boeing and McDonnell Douglas dominate both the domestic and international markets for aircraft. In fact, with a trade surplus of about $12 billion a year, the aircraft industry is one of the few U.S. heavy manufacturers to consistently maintain a positive trade balance.

There is no question that U.S. aircraft producers can compete quite effectively with their counterparts overseas in terms of quality and price. However, on a playing field that has been tilted by unfair financing practices, U.S. aircraft manufacturers can be at a competitive disadvantage. When other governments assist their producers with mixed credits or below- market interest rates, foreign aircraft manufacturers may win contracts that rightfully should go to U.S. companies.The Export-Import Bank of the United States is aware of this problem, and is determined to help protect the competitive position of the domestic aviation industry. Ex-Im Bank's main function is to help finance U.S. exports. Therefore, when William F. Ryan, first vice president and vice chairman, told a Federal Aviation Administration seminar in Los Angeles the bank's board of directors intends to protect aircraft exports, the industry took note.

Ex-Im Bank has been a friend of the aviation industry since it was founded 52 years ago, having supported the sale of more than 2,000 commercial aircraft. Mr. Ryan said he anticipates increased demand for U.S.-built aircraft over the next two or three years, and Ex-Im Bank stands ready to support the sales, when necessary, with long-term loans. In order to help generate sales to nations which are considered credit risks, Ex-Im Bank is prepared in some cases to consider the value of the aircraft as the basis for its loan. Such a policy would certainly be of benefit to airlines in developing nations.

In those instances where other nations support their aircraft industries with unusually generous financing programs, Ex-Im Bank is ready to match the competition, dollar for dollar, with funds from a war chest" created specifically for that purpose. If U.S. producers lose a contract under such conditions, Ex-Im Bank wants to make sure the reason is not because of inadequate financing.

The U.S. aircraft industry has been a world leader for half a century. U.S. technology is responsible for many of the advances in aviation. In order to continue devoting their vast talents and resources to improving aviation technology, U.S. producers must be assured of a steady supply of orders. An aggressive program of long-term financing, such as the one outlined by Mr. Ryan at Ex-Im Bank, should help maintain the competitive excellence of the U.S. aircraft industry.

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