Biden to tout infrastructure spending in trip to Panama


McClatchy Washington Bureau

Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Panama Monday where he will tout the importance of spending money on infrastructure, such as U.S. ports, to capitalize on the expansion of the Panama Canal.

Biden will meet with President Ricardo Martinelli and tour the Panama Canal expansion project. He will be accompanied by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. and the mayors of Baltimore, Philadelphia and Atlanta, according to a senior administration official.

Biden had been scheduled by to make the trip in September but cancelled the visit to focus on the debate over whether to use military force in Syria.

In recent months, Biden had visited the ports in Baltimore, Savannah and Charleston, and an intermodal freight facility in North Baltimore, Ohio, where he has focused on the administration's push to spend money on infrastructure, such as ports.

On Monday, before heading to Panama he will visit the Port of Houston to discuss the importance of investing in infrastructure to improve America's competitiveness, strengthen the middle class, and grow our economy.

Just last week, President Barack Obama traveled to New Orleans to talk about his proposal to spend $50 billion on improvements on roads and bridges, airports and ports as he looks to boost the U.S.’s infrastructure investment, which has dropped 50 percent since 1960 and lags behind other nations, including China.

Obama pledged in 2010 to double exports by 2015, but the U.S. is not on track to meet that goal despite his efforts to develop new trade agreements and attract more foreign direct investment. Exports have grown more than 50 percent since he took office, but a study by the center-left Brookings Institution found that the nation is $200 billion behind his goal.

U.S. ports support more than 13 million jobs nationwide. Last year, every $1 billion in exports supported nearly 5,000 jobs in the United States, according to the White House.

“All these opportunities and challenges, they’re not going to magically fix themselves,” Obama said Friday. “We’ve got to do it. So the sooner we take care of business, the better. And I know if there’s one thing that members of Congress from both parties want, it’s smart infrastructure projects that create good jobs in their districts.”

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