January 10, 2018

U.S. Chamber to unveil proposals to fund infrastructure improvements

Donohue describes sense of urgency in getting package through Congress.

By DC Velocity Staff

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will unveil a series of detailed proposals on how to pay for improvements to the nation's infrastructure next Thursday when it holds a one-day conference on the issue in Washington, D.C., Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said today.

Donohue, in his annual "State of the American Business" address in Washington, did not outline the group's proposals. The Chamber--which, with about 3 million members, is the nation's largest business group—includes transportation, water, broadband, and energy under its infrastructure policy mandate.

Donohue said in his remarks that 2018 "must be the year of major infrastructure improvement," adding that the U.S. cannot run a 21st century economy with "20th century infrastructure, if that."

Since the start of the year, President Trump has turned his attention to developing a sweeping measure to modernize the nation's infrastructure, which in many segments, such as the nation's water supply, is more than a century old. The initial proposal calls for leveraging $200 billion in federal spending to generate an additional $800 billion in federal, state, and private sector investment.

In his remarks, Donohue, hardly a wild-eyed optimist, waxed very optimistic about the outlook for 2018 and well into 2019, saying the strong economic gains achieved last year will extend for months to come, and will likely get stronger. Donohue acknowledged the possibility that unforeseen events or major policy errors could derail the recovery. However, the U.S. economy's current strength is so "deep and wide" that it could withstand severe shocks, he added.

Donohue praised the Trump administration's efforts to aid American business, noting that what he referred to as "regulatory actions" fell 40 percent in 2017 from their peak in 2011 under the Obama administration. However, Donohue urged the administration not to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), saying a $1.3 trillion market for goods and services is too large to walk away from.

Donohue said the 24-year-old agreement needs to be modified to incorporate advancements in what he called "digital trade," and to take into account America's energy resurgence. However, scrapping the deal would amount to "five steps back" and undo the progress of the past 12 months, he said.

Negotiators from the United States, Canada, and Mexico are expected to meet for a sixth round of talks aimed at renegotiating the agreement. Reuters, citing two unnamed Canadian sources, reported today that the U.S. is seriously considering withdrawing from the agreement because neither Canadian nor Mexican negotiators are serious about renegotiating.

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