WASHINGTON – This week, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered opening remarks at his first hearing as Chair of the Committee. During the hearing on the reauthorization of the BUILD Act and oversight of the Development Finance Corporation (DFC), he spoke about his priorities as the incoming Chair and about the need to improve the DFC.
“My priority is simple: to strengthen America’s diplomacy; to make sure our diplomats have the tools they need; and Congress provides the appropriate oversight in carrying out that responsibility. All needs to be done in promoting American values. American values of democracy, anti-corruption, good governance, human rights, and transparency. These are the values that give strength to America’s foreign-policy,” said Chair Cardin.
A copy of the Chair’s remarks, as delivered, have been provided below.
Let me start by making something crystal clear to the international community. To the U.S. Foreign-policy community. To our nation’s allies and adversaries. As this committee moves forward we will continue our work on behalf of the American people, as we have done for more than two centuries.
The world faces challenges as well as opportunities. This committee, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, its members, and staff, play a critical role in meeting the challenges America faces in national security. As I accept the Chairmanship with great humility, thanks to support of our members, thanks to the support of Ranking Member Risch, and thanks to our dedicated and hard-working committee staff, we will continue to advance our values and national interests on the global stage.
My priority is simple: to strengthen America’s diplomacy; to make sure our diplomats have the tools they need; and Congress provides the appropriate oversight in carrying out that responsibility. All needs to be done in promoting American values. American values of democracy, anti-corruption, good governance, human rights, and transparency. These are the values that give strength to America’s foreign-policy. Effective international development is a critical part of this effort. The American approach to entrepreneurism, with individuals building businesses that contribute to our shared economy, has fueled much of this country’s success. Promoting growth that sustains the middle-class and holds government accountable, is vital. Over the decades, we have experimented with different ways to make economic diplomacy part of our efforts abroad. From the Marshall Plan, to loan programs for women in rural areas, to purchase cattle, we have different tools in different contexts.
We know that economic development and finance are essential for stable economies. And stable economies lead to stable countries, which lead to prosperity and security for all. Today, I would like to hear about how the Development Finance Corporation, the DFC, is fulfilling its mandate. It was established in 2018 by the BUILD Act, which many colleagues on this committee worked tirelessly to get that done. This is the first hearing the Foreign Relations Committee is holding to look at how you are doing and what we need to consider as the authorization comes up for renewal.
Mr. Nathan, I want to welcome you to this very important hearing. From West Africa to the western hemisphere, DFC’s loans, insurance, and investments make a positive impact on development… on energy, and health care… on technology and innovation… on women’s empowerment, and addressing the climate crisis. I want to commend the work of the DFC. You have improved energy security with gas investments in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, you make telecom networks more reliable in the Gambia and Sierra Leone, and you’ve strengthened conservation through “Blue Bonds” in Ecuador. You are helping secure global solar energy supply chains and investments in India. Your work harnesses renewable sources, and you do so without forced labor that we see in the People’s Republic of China. The kinds of investments and development models that the DFC champions are what makes the United States a better partner in comparison to China’s debt trap diplomacy efforts. As we consider the reauthorization, we need to continue to make sure that the United States remains a preferred investment partner. We need to make sure we have the tools to match our allies’ capabilities and that we are good stewards of the taxpayer monies. Here are some of the challenges that we confront that I hope we will have a chance to discuss during this hearing.
We need to talk about the scoring issues with the equity investment program… We need to tackle DFC’s maximum contingent liability cap… We need to figure out how we can expand the eligibility pools where the DFC can pursue deals. I also believe we need more transparency on financing deals. The DFC has been slow to establish accountability measures required by the BUILD Act. I am specifically referring to the Development Advisory Council and the Independent Accountability Mechanism. The DFC must diversify more of its funding away from the world’s biggest banks. It must make sure to properly vet microlenders so that we can right any wrongs when loans don’t go as planned. I hope that you will lay out your proposal to reorganize the DFC. How do you see this improving the DFC’s operations and its ability to advance our national security and foreign policy objectives? Mr. Nathan, I’ll also expect you to address the concerns the Committee has heard from DFC labor unions and how you are going to involve the workforce in your reorganization plans.
Finally, I want to underline that I’m committed to working with everyone on this committee to develop the BUILD reauthorization and move it forward. With that, let me turn to our distinguished Ranking Member, Senator Risch with my thanks for his help as I assume the Chairmanship.