We are very honored to be joined by distinguished guests from Colombia, India, Indonesia, and the United Arab Emirates. I hope this will be a very productive day for all of you. And I’m delighted to have so many business leaders from the United States with us as well. We’re always looking, as Tom said, for more ways to partner with the private sector here at home and around the world. And this is truly a team effort, because in addition to State, Commerce, and Transportation, we are also working closely with our colleagues from Treasury, the Export-Import Bank, USAID, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the Trade Development Agency.
Now why are we doing that? Because, I think it’s obvious to state, that we are living through a transformative period in history. The world has never seen so many people ascend economically so quickly. From Asia to South America, people are moving from rural areas into urban areas, earning more money, buying more cars, more televisions, more refrigerators, surfing the web, joining the middle class, and that’s great news. It’s great news for them and for their economies and societies, but it’s great news for the rest of the world as well, because these are tangible improvements in people’s lives. Hundreds of millions of people are being lifted out of poverty, benefiting from higher living standards. But it also puts a major strain on infrastructure – the roads they drive on, the electric grids that power all those new appliances, the mobile networks that connect their apps. And it puts a strain on our natural resources – our water, our air, our energy.
So the world keeps building to meet today’s needs. But to meet the needs of future generations, we have to start to build differently. We have to use innovative technologies like smart grids, data analytics, and communications networks. We need to make our infrastructure smarter, more sustainable, and more efficient.
Building this infrastructure will be expensive. Global construction spending will grow from $6 trillion a year today to nearly $9 trillion a year by 2020. That growth represents enormous demand, both for traditional roads and bridges, and for the smart, technology-enabled infrastructure of tomorrow. The foreign governments and foreign businesses represented in this room know exactly what I’m talking about. Because you are building cities for the next generation, and you need world-class partners to realize your ambitious plans. And for all of you, this is a huge opportunity to connect with new customers and to help build the world of tomorrow.
That’s why we’ve come together today – to develop ideas and partnerships to make sure the world is prepared to meet this historic shift. The companies here today already work in many of the countries represented here. From dams and power plants to state-of-the-art air traffic management, intelligent highways, high-tech desalination plants, they are developing systems that promote sustainable growth. And they’re doing more than just stimulating the economy by doing so. Clean water and sanitation save lives. There are many countries in the world today where there are far more mobile cell phones than toilets. That is a gap that we certainly should be able to close.
Access to the internet gives people a window on the world, for better or worse, but certainly far more for better in terms of what is now available to people that was never there before. High-tech traffic management systems cut down on commutes, make roads safer, and let people spend more time both at work and at home.
Obviously, we want American companies to be your partners of choice in helping to build this brighter future. They have the quality, the expertise, the technology to add value, and to be there for the long haul. And of course, this event is just one opportunity to strike a deal.
In November, we will be hosting an event like this one focused on energy sector partnerships. And in January, leaders from around the world, including the countries here today, will travel throughout the United States as part of our International Visitors Leadership Program to explore how we tackle infrastructure challenges here. They will share best practices with colleagues, discuss old and new challenges, and hopefully create new partnerships both inside and outside of government that will last for years to come. Later today, you will have the chance to learn even more about major areas for collaboration.
So I hope you will take advantage of these opportunities to reach the ambitious infrastructure goals that you have set for yourselves. And as you think about ways to meet today’s needs and plan for tomorrow’s, please know that the United States – both our public sector and our private sector – want to be your partner. The lines of communication are always open, and we want to be available to you to be responsive. Because how we in the world manage this unprecedented growth will determine what our economies, societies and all of us will look like in the years to come.
It’s a great challenge as well as a great opportunity to build a cleaner, healthier, more prosperous future together, and we are excited by what it can mean in improving the quality of life and the opportunities for hundreds of millions of people throughout the world.
Thank you all very much.