The House of Representatives has authorized an extension of the United States Export-Import Bank's charter.

The move, which follows similar action in the Senate, clears the way for the U.S. government finance agency to continue operations for four years after authorization of the extension by the president.

The bank, an independent agency set up in 1945 to help finance U.S. exports, provides credit to purchasers of U.S. goods outside the United States and guarantees export loans by commercial banks.

"We're very pleased with the decision," said a spokesman for the Bankers Association for Foreign Trade, a Washington-based association representing U.S. banks that are active internationally.

"Ex-Im Bank has been an important tool for the banks in helping finance U.S. exports."

Congress has yet to approve a budget for the agency's activities in 1998. Sources said it would probably be about $683 million.

- Compiled by James R. Kraus

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