WASHINGTON — U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue said the Trump administration’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill should attempt to mitigate highway bottlenecks, promote long-term economic growth and update regulations to make private investment more attractive.
“Supplies can only be sourced and shipped as quickly as the infrastructure allows,” Donohue said at a Chamber Infrastructure Week event on May 17. “One outdated corridor or inefficient border can create bottlenecks that are very significant.”
Those bottlenecks do not occur only on roads and bridges, but also at airports, intermodal connectors, computers, information and money — all issues that can make the United States less competitive, Donohue told industry leaders at the Chamber’s Fifth Annual Global Supply Chain Summit.
Donohue was reacting to a plan by President Donald Trump to introduce a massive infrastructure bill that he has yet to outline.
However, a blueprint of the president’s plans could come soon, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a speech earlier this week.
COMING MAY 19: LiveOnWeb Infrastructure Week Reporter Roundtable
“Twenty-first-century infrastructure needs to account for 21st-century technology,” Donohue said. “One big problem [is that] even if today we got that trillion dollars, we couldn’t use it on infrastructure. We have to fix the permitting process, and more than that, we’ve got to find out where we’re going to find the workers.”
Donohue added, “Right now, we’re a country of people without jobs and massive numbers of jobs without people.”
Donohue also expressed concerns about plans by the Trump administration to renegotiate the North America Free Trade Agreement. He said the Chamber has hired a trade rep to represent the organization’s view in any discussions.
“Amend it, don’t end it,” Donohue said.
“We don’t simply trade with Canada and Mexico, we make things together. Our supply chains are highly integrated and our economies are interdependent,” Donohue said. “Is there room for NAFTA to be modernized? You bet.”
But he said the conversation on how to fix NAFTA has to begin in recognition of just how important it is.
“First, do no harm,” Donohue said. “We can’t disrupt the 14 million jobs in this country that depend on the trade with Mexico and Canada, or the $1.3 trillion in trade that crosses our borders annually.”