Chairman Blumenauer Opening Statement at Trade Subcommittee Hearing on Trade Infrastructure for Global Competitiveness

Feb 6, 2020
Press Release

(As prepared for delivery)

The subject of today’s hearing is one of critical importance to the United States. Infrastructure is, after all, the backbone of the American economy. 

For too long, we’ve allowed our nation’s infrastructure to fall apart by not providing the investments needed to maintain and modernize our highways, roads and bridges, ports, airports, rail, transit systems, and water infrastructure.

The American Society of Civil Engineers most recently gave the United States a D+ on its 2017 infrastructure report card, stating recent efforts to invest in our infrastructure come nowhere near our nation’s $2 trillion dollars in needs. 

What was once the finest infrastructure in world has become a source of international embarrassment.

The federal partnership on infrastructure has declined steadily since the 1960s. Today, much of our nation’s infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life. Aging locks and dams on our inland waterways, deteriorating roads, and outdated airports hamper our quality of life and result in costly delays for U.S. commerce. 

Our nation’s ports, through which 99 percent of international trade passes, need better landside connections to roads, rail, and inland waterways and deeper navigation channels to remain globally competitive. 

America’s crumbling infrastructure also increases congestion, pollution, and commute times, while compromising safety. We are falling apart and falling behind.

Failure to close America’s infrastructure investment gap has serious economic consequences, including millions of forgone American jobs, slowing U.S. GDP, and trillions of lost business sales. 

Hardworking American families bear the brunt of inaction, losing more than an estimated $3,000 in disposable income each year we fail to act. 

As our infrastructure languishes, we fall behind our global competitors. Countries and economies like Singapore, the Netherlands, and Hong Kong far outpace the U.S. in terms of the quality and the extent of their transportation and utility infrastructure. 

Economic competitors like China have prioritized high-speed rail infrastructure, development of advanced technology vehicles, and high-tech shipping vessels, to transform China into a leading manufacturing power by the year 2049.

The U.S. also falls behind many other developed countries when it comes to the resilience and sustainability of our infrastructure. Extreme weather from climate change, natural disasters, and other crises at seaports can result in billions of dollars of damage and loss of long-term activity, which makes efforts to improve the resilience of our ports and other infrastructure critical. 

Sustainability must be part of any future infrastructure investment plans as well, so we can safeguard our environment and our planet. 

Meeting the needs of a 21st century economy will require robust federal funding, leadership, and a bold vision for how we can address our infrastructure needs. 

It’s time to initiate a trade agenda that puts the American people first by creating the kind of good, middle-class jobs working families need through infrastructure investments. 

The Moving Forward Framework released by House Democrats last week offers an important first step to achieving these goals by seeking to invest $760 billion in our infrastructure over five years.   

The Ways and Means Committee held a hearing, also last week, to discuss how we can fund and finance these infrastructure investments so we can start rebuilding and renewing America.

These investments will spur innovation, increase economic activity, create family-wage jobs, and restore the greatness of American infrastructure while boosting our global competitiveness. 

I hope that we can work with our colleagues across the aisle on what should be a bipartisan priority for all of us. It’s past time that we got the job done and responsibly fund and finance infrastructure investments.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today who will elaborate on this important subject.