US senator opposes help to Kenyan soda ash industry

Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi is opposing an application by Kenya for an American loan to help develop its nascent soda ash industry.
Republican Senator Mr. Enzi told a recent hearing of the Senate Banki…

Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi is opposing an application by Kenya for an American loan to help develop its nascent soda ash industry. Republican Senator Mr. Enzi told a recent hearing of the Senate Banking Subcommittee on International Trade and Finance that the loan would be “counterproductive” to Wyoming and US soda ash interests. Wyoming is a major center of US soda ash production. Kenya produced about 360,000 tons of soda ash in 2005 and has estimated reserves of 7 million tons of soda ash, according to figures from the US Geological Survey. Kenya has applied for finance from the Export-Import Bank of the United States for eight refurbished US locomotives, worth USD 14 million, that it plans to use for transporting soda ash to market, according to Helene Walsh, policy and oversight review director for the Ex-Im Bank. Walsh said available information shows that Kenya“s new output will be consumed in India, Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The Ex-Im Bank supports the financing of US goods and services, turning export opportunities into transactions that maintain and create jobs, according to the bank“s Web site. Enzi said the bank should consider the long-term effects of the Kenyan locomotive deal on Wyoming soda ash producers, who have had to face a relatively flat growth rate, declining prices, falling profitability and declining employee numbers in recent years. “If approved, the US taxpayer will be subsidizing a soda ash facility overseas that will be in direct competition with domestic soda ash producers,” Enzi, a senior member of the Senate Banking Committee, said. In 2005, members of the Wyoming congressional delegation also criticized the Ex-Im Bank for considering a USD 50 million loan in US equipment and services to build a soda ash facility in Turkey. The bank yet to make a decision on the Turkey application.