- Anthony Foxx, Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation
- Eric Farnsworth, Vice President, Council of the Americas (interviewer)
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx addressed the audience at the conference by speaking on the challenges of promoting innovation in infrastructure and transportation. Pointing to the promise of the Panama Canal in 1879, he mentioned the role of innovation in terms of the ideas that led its construction—“a channel connected by a series of manmade lakes,” according to Foxx.
He described the birth of the Canal as a historic event that cost $200 million and involved more than 130 international delegates, pointing to its critical in shaping the vision of the Americas. Indeed, “the Canal is an example of how the international community can ‘out-innovate’ transportation problems,” said Foxx, adding that he looked forward to April 2016, when it will open to larger vessels.
Foxx pointed to several trends in the Americas when it comes to large-scale innovation and infrastructure. First, people throughout the Americas are moving to urban areas; by 2050, nine out of ten South Americans will call a town or a city home. Furthermore, several urban rapid transit systems have sprung up throughout the hemisphere, including for Lima’s 10 million inhabitants.
Infrastructure and trade innovation are also fundamental to trade, stated Foxx. “We don’t just need physical infrastructure, but also the legal infrastructure for trade…we need to address the bottlenecks.” Moreover, he described aviation as an area of connectivity between the United States and the rest of the hemisphere, given that there are open skies agreements between the United States and Central American countries, and Brazil will be added to the list later this year.
Returning to the topic of the Panama Canal, “the best of ideas and innovation,” Foxx promoted the concept that there is a “wider world to connect” in order to tackle the Panama Canal of this century. Part of this goal can be achieved through bigger trade deals and aviation agreements to make “the global economy truly global.”