Asia wants some of Trump's infrastructure billions

The US isn't the only place where big investment in infrastructure is sorely needed.President Trump wants to p...

Posted: Feb 23, 2018 12:16 PM
Updated: Feb 23, 2018 12:16 PM

The US isn't the only place where big investment in infrastructure is sorely needed.

President Trump wants to pour hundreds of billions of government money into upgrading US bridges and highways, which he has slammed as "third world." But developing countries across Asia and the Pacific are also hungry for American dollars to help improve their roads and railways.

It's a subject that Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has raised as he prepares to meet Trump in Washington on Friday.

"We need trillions and trillions of dollars of additional infrastructure investment in the region," Turnbull said Thursday.

Economists agree with him. The Asian Development Bank estimated last year that developing nations in Asia and the Pacific would require $26 trillion through 2030 to build things like power grids, transportation links and sewage pipes.

One major power is already stepping in to meet some of those needs.

China is pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into ports, rail lines and other projects in Asia and beyond through its Belt and Road program.

Related: China's new world order

The world's biggest exporter is trying to build and strengthen a vast trading network across Asia, Africa and Europe.

Experts say the US and its allies are worried that China is using the program to expand its influence and limit other countries' cooperation with the West.

"Their biggest concern is that Belt and Road is a means of cementing Chinese economic hegemony," said Harsh Pant, an international relations professor at King's College London.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in October that "no one nation should put itself into a position of dictating 'One Belt, One Road,'" which is another name for the Chinese program.

An alternative to China

But the challenge facing the US and its allies is how to respond to the huge sums China is pouring into the projects -- and the ties it's building with the nations receiving the investments.

Some of China's regional rivals are already investigating alternatives. Japan and India, which have eyed Belt and Road warily, are backing a project called the Asia Africa Growth Corridor, which aims to boost trade between the continents by beefing up infrastructure like ports.

Related: China has a grand plan to dominate world trade

Euan Graham, director of the international security program at the Lowy Institute in Australia, says that kind of collaboration could have real appeal because many governments would prefer to partner with countries other than China on big infrastructure projects.

Increased US involvement could make it even more attractive.

While it's hard to compete with the billions China offers, according to Graham, countries like the US and Japan benefit from advantages in engineering know-how, project management and quality control.

"They should play to their strengths" and offer higher standards, he said.

Related: A massive US farming industry fears China trade trouble

But pledging big sums to overseas projects won't fit neatly with Trump's "America First" agenda and focus on improving US infrastructure.

And with tensions already rising between Washington and Beijing over trade, the Chinese government might not take kindly to the US teaming up on infrastructure spending in Asia with rivals such as Japan and India.

"Beijing will see this as an attempt to reshape the balance of power in the wider Indo-Pacific," Pant said.

Supporting American jobs

Some experts say there are good reasons for America to pump money into Asia and the Pacific.

Last year, Trump yanked the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a huge free trade deal covering 12 nations on both sides of the ocean. By pulling out of it, Trump raised doubts about the US government's future role in Asia.

Teaming up with its allies to invest in infrastructure "could be a useful way of drawing the US back in," said Bates Gill, a security studies professor at Australia's Macquarie University.

Some major US companies like GE and Caterpillar have already backed Belt and Road plans.

Related: Why tech secrets, not steel, could cause the real clash between the US and China

Gill argues that Trump could pitch greater US involvement in foreign infrastructure spending as a way to create American jobs and boost exports. The projects could generate business for the US companies that make the machinery and other equipment required by the construction activity.

Demand for infrastructure in the region is so high, Gill said, that China's pockets aren't deep enough to cover it all.

"We want to work with China to ensure that their infrastructure investment is commercially sustainable, is transparent and adds to the economic growth that is so needed in our part of the world," Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said this week.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 145636

Reported Deaths: 3745
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto963299
Hinds9584195
Harrison6848109
Jackson6124118
Rankin528598
Lee484295
Madison4633105
Forrest368186
Jones345287
Lauderdale3350143
Lafayette315049
Washington3097107
Lamar281849
Oktibbeha239261
Bolivar239083
Lowndes228863
Neshoba2164115
Panola211749
Marshall208350
Leflore200890
Pontotoc194728
Monroe190277
Sunflower189755
Lincoln186165
Warren172257
Tate164251
Union160925
Pike160458
Copiah158940
Yazoo151239
Scott150229
Itawamba147634
Coahoma147443
Pearl River144467
Simpson144253
Alcorn143925
Prentiss140429
Grenada136945
Adams136548
Leake131843
Holmes124961
George122224
Tippah121530
Covington117636
Winston116624
Wayne115823
Hancock114139
Marion111046
Attala107833
Tishomingo106142
Newton102729
Chickasaw102432
Tallahatchie95527
Clarke88553
Clay87027
Jasper81122
Walthall75028
Stone72414
Montgomery71925
Calhoun71613
Carroll70614
Lawrence70214
Yalobusha69427
Noxubee69217
Smith68816
Perry65225
Tunica59619
Greene58422
Claiborne57416
Jefferson Davis54217
Humphreys52618
Amite51214
Benton48417
Quitman4796
Webster42014
Kemper40917
Wilkinson38622
Jefferson33811
Franklin3235
Choctaw3077
Sharkey30617
Issaquena1114
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 236865

Reported Deaths: 3472
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson31043491
Mobile19446360
Tuscaloosa12684150
Madison12528146
Montgomery12122235
Shelby992276
Baldwin837684
Lee759765
Morgan626247
Calhoun6049113
Etowah600564
Marshall596153
Houston510838
DeKalb469635
Cullman421136
Limestone408844
St. Clair403955
Elmore398961
Lauderdale387253
Walker356199
Talladega339044
Jackson302524
Colbert297641
Blount282236
Autauga266139
Franklin246233
Coffee236615
Dale228454
Dallas222331
Russell21923
Chilton218537
Covington215933
Escambia196931
Tallapoosa171790
Chambers171448
Pike156014
Clarke155319
Marion135535
Winston126623
Lawrence123936
Geneva11848
Pickens117618
Marengo117424
Barbour116710
Bibb115717
Butler114341
Randolph100321
Cherokee99624
Hale93231
Washington89918
Clay89623
Fayette86216
Henry8436
Lowndes78929
Monroe77911
Cleburne75614
Macon71720
Crenshaw70330
Bullock69019
Conecuh68214
Perry6726
Lamar6337
Wilcox62818
Sumter56222
Choctaw41813
Greene41317
Coosa3144
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
44° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 44°
Columbus
Clear
47° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 45°
Oxford
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 36°
Starkville
Clear
43° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 43°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather