Thune Statement on Panama Canal Widening

April 10, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, delivered the following prepared remarks at today’s “Expanding the Panama Canal: What Does it Mean for American Freight and Infrastructure?” hearing:

Thank you Mr. Chairman, and thank you for holding this hearing today.

The widening of the Panama Canal presents a great economic opportunity, not only for port states, but for the nation as a whole.

More than 90 percent of American imports and exports move by ship, so the widening of the Canal will have an impact throughout the United States, including in places like my home state of South Dakota that are roughly a thousand miles away from either coast or the Gulf of Mexico.

As global trade increases, we will need to find new ways to move freight effectively and efficiently. This will require increased coordination among the various modes of transportation, as well as with local, state, and federal officials.

It is also crucial that we not overlook the needs of rural states such as South Dakota. Rural states are the source of many of our nation’s exports when it comes to agricultural products and manufacturing, and the destination of many of its imports.

I am particularly encouraged by the fact that widening of the Canal can increase opportunities for American exports. The Army Corps of Engineers estimates that the ability to employ large bulk vessels is expected to significantly lower the delivery cost of U.S. agricultural exports to Asia and other foreign markets.

Canal expansion will also make it easier for the United States to export liquid natural gas and other sources of energy.

The energy industry has been a bright spot of our economy over the past several years. Domestic energy production is increasing, and creating American jobs in
the process.

In 2011, for the first time since 1949, the United States exported more energy than it imported. This is an encouraging development, and as domestic energy production increases, the need for ways to export these materials will increase.

Moving forward, Congress must be sure not to impose burdensome regulations on the transportation industry that will harm productivity or discourage private sector infrastructure investment.

We must also recognize the need for continued investment in our nation’s transportation infrastructure and work to find financing mechanisms that engage the private sector and that will not place an undue burden on the American taxpayer.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today regarding preparations for the likely impacts of widening the Panama Canal, including their assessments of what remains to be done to ensure that we reap the predicted economic benefits of the canal’s expansion.