(Adds comments from union official, congressman)
By David Lawder
WASHINGTON, Sept 28 (Reuters) - General Electric Co said on Monday it will move production of large, gas-powered engines to Canada from Wisconsin, along with 350 jobs, to access export financing no longer available in the United States.
In its latest salvo aimed at persuading Congress to renew the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s charter which expired in June, GE will invest $265 million in a new state-of-the-art manufacturing plant at a Canadian location yet to be determined.
The facility, to open in about 20 months, can be expanded to provide flexible manufacturing capacity to support other GE businesses, including engines for railroad locomotives, GE said.
In exchange for moving the production from Waukesha, Wisconsin, Export Development Canada will provide financing support for a range of future products, including some still made in the United States.
These are expected to come from GE’s Water & Power, Oil & Gas and Transportation units, a GE spokeswoman said.
At the 106-year-old Waukesha plant, GE builds piston engines for power and oilfield use that run on natural gas or methane from landfills. But these engines are not typically sold with EXIM financing, so the move is more aimed at finding government export credit for other businesses, the GE spokeswoman said.
The company also acknowledged that the recent downturn in oil and gas drilling activity was a factor in the decision to end engine manufacturing in Waukesha.
The announcement stands in sharp contrast to a 2014 visit to the site by President Barack Obama, in which he touted its worker training program as “a model for the country.”
“I’d say the workers at Waukesha are the real world casualties in the right-wing fight to close the EXIM Bank,” said Frank Larkin, a spokesman for the International Association of Machinists, which represents plant workers.
Republican Representative James Sensenbrenner, who represents Waukesha and opposes EXIM “in its current form,” said in a statement that the move was a “sober reminder of the urgent need to stay competitive in the global marketplace” and called for lower corporate tax rates.
In recent weeks, GE has announced several deals to locate thousands of new jobs out of the United States following EXIM’s closure and to access government export credit from the United Kingdom, France, Hungary and China.
GE Vice Chairman John Rice told Reuters that foreign export credit agencies are “rolling out the red carpet” for the industrial conglomerate, more than tripling the export financing capacity it received under EXIM. (Editing by Bernadette Baum and Diane Craft)