Infrastructure: Something ties can build on

By Wang Linyan in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-04-25 11:42

Infrastructure: Something ties can build on

Infrastructure could become a prime area for increased cooperation between the United States and China, said Cui Tiankai, China's ambassador to the US.

"I think infrastructure is certainly a new area of great potential for both countries. Of course, we still have to remove some obstacles and maybe some policy adjustments. But I think if both sides are committed to cooperation in this area, this could be done," Cui said on the sidelines following his keynote speech at the 2017 International Finance and Infrastructure Forum in New York on Monday.

The forum, the first high-level one after President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump met at Mar-a-Lago in April, was sponsored by Bloomberg LP, the China General Chamber of Commerce (CGCC)-USA, the CGCC Foundation and the National Governors Association.

Infrastructure can range from building roads and bridges to providing maintenance on buildings and water systems.

Yuan Ning understands how infrastructure works. He is the president of China Construction America, which has been operating in the US for more than 20 years. His company has worked on the rehabilitation of the Alexander Hamilton Bridge in New York and on the Pulaski Skyline project in New Jersey.

"We have over 2,000 managers in the US, and 98 percent of our staff is local hires," Yuan said. "We already buy American and hire American."

The US and China will require major infrastructure investments for the foreseeable future. Because of its rapid growth, China must keep up with increasing demands on its roads, mass transit and property development.

While the US is a mature economy, its infrastructure boom came in the years after World War II. Many of those projects are now over 60 years old and haven't been properly maintained or updated.

China is about to embark on building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Africa and Europe called the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor who founded the news and information services company that bears his name, said the world will require about $90 trillion in infrastructure investment over the next decade.

"Infrastructure investment is one of the best ways to spur growth," said Bloomberg, who was a host of the forum.

From the moment he was elected US president, Trump has said he wants a strong infrastructure program for the US.

Jim Reynolds has partnered with former NBA great Earvin "Magic" Johnson to launch the JLC Infrastructure Fund, which is investing more than $1 billion in infrastructure improvement in the US.

He believes that China and the US, by opening up participation in BRI and Trump's US infrastructure program to companies from both nations, is an ideal way to solve the infrastructure problems facing both countries and perhaps lessen trade tension between the two.

"I think it would be a fantastic idea to get the best of both countries involved in these big projects," he said. "One Belt, One Road is a $5 trillion estimated project, and the amount of unfunded US infrastructure is about $3.6 trillion. I think it would be a great marriage for the two leading economies of the world."

Johnson and Reynolds participated in a panel discussion that also included Richard LeFrak, chairman and CEO of the LeFrak Organization, who also is co-chairman of a new council created to monitor spending on Trump's proposed $1 trillion infrastructure plan. LeFrak said there is room for involvement of Chinese companies in US infrastructure building.

"I can't imagine why not - certainly for the financing of the projects," he said.

Xu Chen, president and CEO of Bank of China USA, said his bank is eager to serve as an intermediary between Chinese companies and US infrastructure projects.

"Globally, our bank has more than 3 million corporate clients. We can play a role between Chinese companies and the American projects," said Xu, who is also the chairman of CGCC-USA, a nonprofit organization that represents Chinese enterprises in the United States.

Paul Welitzkin in New York contributed to this story.


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