Five major elements make up the U.S. system of finance, insurance, and guarantee of U.S. exports of goods and services: (1) the banking system, (2) the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im), (3) the Foreign Credit Insurance Association (FCIA), (4) the Public Export Funding Corporation (PEFCO), and (5) miscellaneous U.S. governmental agencies and organizations, state and local governmental agencies, trade associations, and specialized firms. Although U.S. exports are a relatively small portion of the nation's gross domestic product, in absolute terms, they are very large. They are a significant part of the nation's economy and require a large amount of financing in order to facilitate their sale to foreign countries.
The U.S. system of international trade financing is one of the most comprehensive found in the world. Most countries have banks that engage in financing trade and one or, at the most, two governmental agencies whose primary objective is to insure or guarantee trade credits granted by the banking system. Some of these countries also host one or more private insurance companies, which offer trade credit insurance or supplement the activities of the nation's government institution responsible for trade finance. These export credit agencies (ECAs) are government owned and operated in nearly every case. In a few cases, the ECA is a private firm, as in Germany; some functions of the ECA have been privatized, as with short-term insurance of exports in Great Britain, or the government-run ECA attempts to operate as though it