Waterways industry upset over U.S. plan to boost Brazil infrastructure

 
Waterways advocates are smarting over news that the Obama administration will offer new financing for joint infrastructure projects between U.S. and Brazilian companies. A key part of the financing is $1 billion from the Export-Import Bank of the United States for infrastructure projects in Brazil’s oil sector.

The goal is to deepen ties between the U.S. and Brazil, which is one of the largest emerging markets and a growing economic powerhouse. U.S. companies would score a role in Brazil’s planned building boom in the run-up to the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.

“He’s inviting U.S. companies to participate in a building boom in Brazil despite the critical state of infrastructure in the United States, and despite federal funding that continues to shrink,” Cornel Martin, president and CEO of the Waterways Council Inc. said at a Washington, D.C., press conference earlier this month.

Martin said the move indicates yet another disconnect of priorities that the U.S. demonstrates toward its aging and crumbling waterways infrastructure.

Obama’s plan would also extend funding for joint ventures to build infrastructure projects in other countries, mainly Africa, where the U.S. and Brazil want to counter the rising influence of Chinese investment.

Financing would be done through the Ex-Im Bank. Obama has expanded Ex-Im Bank’s role in an effort to expand business ventures abroad that would create more jobs in America. Ex-Im Bank Chairman Fred P. Hochberg told Reuters that funding would be available for U.S.-based companies to build roads and other infrastructure in Brazil.

Funds would come from a co-financing deal between Ex-Im and Brazil’s state-run development bank.

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