US transport chief: We’ll have supply chain problems until pandemic ends

By Lucia Leal

Washington, Nov 8 (EFE).- The problems in US supply chains will continue “until the pandemic is truly behind us,” although Washington expects to see “improvements in the weeks and months ahead,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Monday.

In an exclusive interview with EFE, Buttigieg spoke about the Joe Biden administration’s desire to invest in green infrastructure in Latin America and about the need for the US to modernize its own transportation network to be able to compete with China.

When asked about the bottlenecks in the global supply chain, the US transportation chief noted that US firms are predicting an “all-time record high, in terms of the level of sales” during the Christmas holiday season.

“There is enormous demand, which means even though our … supply chains are moving more goods than ever, they are going to struggle to keep up”, said Buttigieg, speaking with EFE in front of the West Wing of the White House.

“You add to that the complexity and the disruption … from the pandemic, and so I do think we’ll continue to see challenges until the pandemic is truly behind us,” he added.

He went on to say, however, that “we’ve seen good progress in the (country’s) ports,” like Los Angeles and Long Beach, both in California, which are the two most important US ports and have begun operating 24 hours a day.

“We’ve seen a lot of compelling commitments made by some of the businesses involved (in the supply chain), and … we believe that that will be reflected in terms of improvements in the weeks and months ahead,” he emphasized.

Buttigieg also spoke about the White House plan for next year to present an initiative to invest in infrastructure in the developing countries of Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and the Indo-Pacific, to be called “Build Back Better for the World.”

When asked about potential future investments that Latin American might expect under this plan, which has the backing of the G7 nations, Buttigieg said that the details are still being worked out but that Washington feels that it’s important to be “a good ally” for US neighbors in the Western Hemisphere.

Buttigieg said that when the amount of development in Latin America is considered, one should ensure that the US will support with funding what government officials say in their speeches, support Washington’s neighbors and keep doing good work on implementing “green” infrastructure.

He said that the entire world benefits when a country develops in a greener direction, and a large part of that has to do with transportation.

In addition, the transport chief referred to the $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan that was just approved in Congress and which Biden will soon sign into law.

He said that this will be an economic engine for US growth.

Speaking briefly in Spanish, Buttigieg said he wanted to reiterate to EFE in that language that the investments contained in the infrastructure law “are essential” for the United States because “they will create millions of good jobs, millions of opportunities for large and small businesses.”

Buttigieg also described the contents of the law as an “investment in competiveness” that can help the US to gain ground against China.

He said when one looks at countries like China who are investing massively in their infrastructure while the US is trying to adjust itself to infrastructure that is decades old, that can put this country at a competitive disadvantage.

And he lamented the fact that, the US does not have a single airport in the world’s “top 25” and has so many “ports and highways” in poor condition.

The $1.2 trillion plan includes $550 billion in new spending but, even so, this is the largest investment in public works in the US in more than a decade, and it also includes more than $110 billion to repair roads, highways and ports.

In addition, the plan allocates funding to improve the railroad network, revamp many ports and expand access to broadband Internet service, as well as to address problems with water supply and increase the nation’s resilience vis-a-vis climate change.

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