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BOEING firmed up plenty of orders at the annual Farnborough Air Show, near London, but behind that news is the fact that Washington’s homegrown jet maker has so many competitors with a foreign flag.

There’s Airbus, the European consortium that promises a Dreamliner-killer; Japan’s Mitsubishi, with its smaller commuter jet; and the as-yet-unbuilt Chinese C-919, a direct competitor that might pose the biggest threat of all.

All of which ought to tell U.S. House Republican leaders — and Washington’s U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, in particular — that this is not a good time for America to practice unilateral disarmament. One of the nation’s best aircraft-sales tool, the U.S. Export-Import Bank, goes away Oct. 1 unless it is reauthorized by Congress.

Boeing’s international buyers are the bank’s biggest customers — they obtained $7.9 billion in loan guarantees last year to purchase 106 airplanes. That fuels argument from a faction of congressional House Republicans that the bank is government largesse for well-connected corporations.

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Worried bank advocates say it’s not just about Boeing. Ninety percent of the Ex-Im Bank’s loans go to small businesses. But the Farnborough Air Show shows there’s nothing wrong with standing up for Boeing. Every other country with an aircraft industry has an export-credit agency. That’s what it takes to sell to the national airlines of developing countries, and if we don’t do it, others will.

“Imagine what it would do to this country’s manufacturing base if Boeing went away,” says U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, sponsor of the reauthorization bill.Every other Washington lawmaker is backing the Ex-Im Bank, save the one who could play the most important role in bringing the bill to the floor. McMorris Rodgers, the GOP conference leader, needs to declare unequivocal support. Boeing has 15,000 suppliers, and 40 are in her 5th Congressional District, doing $362 million in business annually. Being in leadership sometimes requires a person to lead.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

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