President Obama trumpeted the need for the United States to invest in transportation infrastructure, while also calling for a transatlantic trade partnership, during his annual State of the Union address in Washington Tuesday evening.
Obama proposed a number of programs aimed at stimulating economic recovery through job growth and road and port infrastructure development.
One, which he dubbed “Fix-It-First',” would focus on urgent infrastructure repairs, specifically to 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. The broader “Partnership to Rebuild America” would seek private capital, among other things, to upgrade seaports.
Obama did not provide further details about how he envisions the program would function. But Bud Wright, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), lauded the president’s efforts to focus on infrastructure.
“AASHTO salutes President Obama for again calling for greater investment in America’s infrastructure,” Wright said. “Now we need to work together to tackle the most pressing issue facing our transportation system – how are we going to pay for it.
“We look forward to working closely with the administration and members of Congress on legislation that will shore up the Highway Trust Fund with a long-term, sustainable source of funding to pay for the nation’s highway and transit programs.”
Meanwhile, Obama said during his address that the United States was starting comprehensive transatlantic trade talks with the European Union, similar to those underway with nearly a dozen Pacific Rim nations.
“Trade that is fair and free across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs,” he said.
Obama added his administration plans to complete negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “to boost American exports, support American jobs, and level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia.”
The National Foreign Trade Council said it was encouraged by the intention to pursue a transatlantic trade pact and complete TPP talks.
“We applaud the president’s announcement that the United States will continue to work toward completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and launch trade negotiations with the European Union,” said NFTC President Bill Reinsch.
“While the U.S.-EU talks will not be easy, they are critically important," Reinsch said. "It is a necessity if we are to remain competitive, and there is no better partner than Europe where we already have longstanding economic relationships and substantial investment already flowing across the Atlantic in both directions.”
"UPS sees strengthening and deepening the U.S.-EU trade relationship as a cornerstone of our own success," added Scott Davis, UPS chairman and chief executive officer. "A stronger partnership in trade between the U.S. and the EU will bring tremendous benefits for U.S. and European exporters alike." - Eric Johnson