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NORFOLK (AP) - U.S. Sen. Mark Warner traveled to Hampton Roads to rally support for reauthorizing the U.S. Export-Import Bank, saying it helps support thousands of port-related jobs in the area and helps companies in all corners of the state compete in the global marketplace.

The Export-Import Bank provides loans, loan guarantees and credit insurance to overseas buyers of U.S. goods. Its charter expires in September, and without legislation it would be unable to back new loans.

The bank was created by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1934 and has enjoyed bipartisan support in the past. But the agency's future has been put in doubt by some conservatives who contend it is a taxpayer-subsidized giveaway to large companies.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has said he opposes reauthorizing the bank, which is also the position staked out by Warner's Republican rival for Senate, Ed Gillespie. In a debate Saturday, Gillespie said every government program needs to be scrutinized for cost savings, including popular ones like the bank supported by the Chamber of Commerce. Gillespie's campaign also noted a May Congressional Budget Office report that said the Export-Import Bank could cost $2 billion over the next 10 years.

Warner said that in a perfect world, the government would be able to step back from its role providing loans. But he said that would put U.S. companies at a disadvantage because other countries aren't likely to follow suit.

'We live in the real world, not the theoretical world. And when China, Brazil, France, Canada all use these tools to the advantage of their companies, and somehow America, which has been using this Export-Import Bank for decades, would suddenly say, 'Alright, we're going to take away this support.' This would cost us thousands of American jobs. That makes absolutely no sense,' Warner said.

Warner made his comments at a campaign event with about a dozen unionized port workers standing behind him at a riverfront park in view of two port terminals. He said the bank helps ensure cargo moves through the Port of Virginia, supporting 10,000 port-related jobs. The Port of Virginia is the third busiest on the East Coast.

'We've got to do more so support our export capabilities. We've got to make sure we keep Virginia competitive in the global economy. This port is essential to not just to Virginia's economy, but since we are shipping a variety of goods, coal, other things from all around the Mid-Atlantic, this is essential to our nation's economy as well,' Warner said.

While Warner stressed the importance the bank has in supporting the port, he also noted that about 100 Virginia-based companies have relied on the Export-Import Bank since 2007 to help export about $1 billion in products. Of those, more than 50 percent are small businesses, according to bank statistics.

The top three largest Virginia-based exporters to use the bank are Bristol-based Bristol Compressors International, Inc., Dulles-based Orbital Sciences Corporation and Chesapeake-based Mitsubishi Plastics Composites America, Inc.

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