WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump made no mention of the U.S. Export-Import Bank during a speech Feb. 17 some had expected to include a call for restoring the bank’s full lending authority.

Trump spoke broadly about the need for the U.S. to rely less on imports and produce more domestically during a visit to a Boeing aircraft plant in Charleston, South Carolina.

Ex-Im has lacked a full board of directors since Congress reauthorized the bank in December 2015 (after letting its charter lapse for the first time in its 82-year history), limiting the executive-branch institution from providing loans greater than $10 million. Boeing, the largest exporter in the country, has relied on the federal institution to help finance large aerospace projects, namely aircraft and satellites.

Trump said that in addition to reducing regulations and cutting taxes, his administration would focus on “creating a level playing field for our workers.”

“When there is a level playing field — and I’ve been saying this for a long time — American workers will always, always, always win,” said Trump. “But we don’t have a level playing field. Very shortly you will have a level playing field again.”

That same language is often employed by the space industry’s Ex-Im supporters who decry that U.S. manufacturers face a disadvantage when competing for contracts against foreign companies that still have unfettered access to export-credit agencies back home.

However, Trump’s talk about leveling the playing field has often been accompanied by calls for taxing imports and taking a tougher stand against countries that keep their currencies artificially low to boost exports.

Without Ex-Im Bank support, two Boeing satellite deals — ABS-8 for Bermuda-based fleet operator ABS, and Kacific-1 for Singapore-startup Kacific — failed to close. Virginia-based Orbital ATK also claimed to have lost an order for Intelsat 38/Azerspace 2 over Ex-Im’s absence. That order went to Space Systems Loral in California, which through parent company MDA in Canada has access to the export credit agency Export Development Canada. ABS and Kacific have yet to reorder their respective satellites. 

Caleb Henry is a former SpaceNews staff writer covering satellites, telecom and launch. He previously worked for Via Satellite and NewSpace Global.He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science along with a minor in astronomy from...