Biden backs shipping, rail project to include India, Saudis AND Israel

Biden announces new shipping, rail and tech project that would include India, Europe, Saudis AND Israel: Biden hails ‘big deal’ before botching Saudi Prince MBS’ name

  • White House touting new ‘Memorandum of Understanding’
  • Goal is to establish new shipping corridors across regions
  • NSC official said it would lower ‘turbulence and insecurity’ in Middle East

The White House and leaders of India, Europe, and the Middle East on Saturday were set to announce agreement on a plan that would establish rail, shipping, and tech corridors meant to link regional economies with the prospect of bringing more stability to the turbulent Middle East.

The plan is to closer link regional economies through infrastructure, financing, and transit threw new ‘corridors’ that the White calls a ‘groundbreaking’ effort to join far flung regional economies.

The project includes a new rail transportation corridor that would include the U.S. India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Jordan and the European Union – although it isn’t exactly ‘shovel ready,’ with leaders set to announce only a ‘memorandum of understanding’ on it.

One part of the plan would commit the U.S. and Europe to backing for a commitment by the African nations of Angola, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s to develop a rail corridor.

‘This is a big del. This is a real big deal,’ said President Biden, paraphrasing his own praise for passage of Obamacare, but this time dropping the expletive.

President Joe Biden and a group of leaders announced a memo of understanding on building rail and shipping corridors in a way meant to more closely link India with Europe and the Middle East

The nations commit themselves to reestablish corridors between the Middle East and Europe, and between the Middle East and India.

‘We are laying a strong foundation for a developed India with this,’ Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at an event touting the initiative.

He was flanked by President Joe Biden to his right and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on his left. 

Better connecting India to Europe through rail and ‘existing ports through the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel ‘will generate economic growth while incentivizing new investments and the creation of quality jobs,’ according to a White House fact sheet.

Other regional projects would lay cable to boost internet speeds between regions. 

It is part of what White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan described as an effort to establish ‘one seamless integrated economic corridor.’

That includes hard infrastructure like shipping and rail lines, as well as other economic and technical connections.  

It would run ‘from India to Europe, through the [United Arab Emirates], Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel in a way that will generate economic growth, create incentives for new investments and advanced regional integration and across the Middle East as well as connecting India all the way to Europe,’ said Sullivan.

The deal stemmed in part from talks between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (seen here hugging Indian PM Narendra Modi) and White House national security officials this year. The White House didn't say earlier Saturday whether Biden would meet the controversial figure

He said it would happen ‘in a way that will not only allow the transport of goods more efficiently, but also will increase cooperation on energy and digital connectivity.’

‘We think this is a big deal, an important moment. And a milestone in an effort that is has already been underway,’ Sullivan told reporters.

The White House is selling it as an economic effort that could have added political benefits.

 National Security Council official John Finer told reporters traveling in New Delhi Saturday it could help ‘turn the temperature down’ on ‘turbulence and insecurity’ coming out of the Middle East. 

‘It will be a clear demonstration of a new model President Biden has pioneered for more transparent and sustainably sustainable development, sustainable, high standard infrastructure that fills a damaged gap and enables greater prosperity and better connectivity for key regions around the world,’ he said.

It is yet another economy project that comes as China seeks to use its military and economic might to exert its own influence around the world. China was at the G20 but President Xi Jinping didn’t show. 

President Joe Biden greeted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the start of G20 meetings Saturday. Leaders are set to announce a new rail and shipping corridor that would include India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other countries

Biden is expected to announce Saturday afternoon – at an event that could put him in close quarters with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who Biden infamously fist-bumped on a trip to Saudi Arabia last year. 

Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi plan to announce the project as part of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment. The rail and shipping corridor would enable greater trade among the countries, including energy products. It could also be one of the more ambitious counters to China‘s own belt and road initiative that sought to connect more of the world to that country’s economy.

Finer laid out three big rationales for the project in a call with reporters. He said first that the corridor would increase prosperity among the countries involved by increasing the flow of energy and digital communications. Second, the project would help to address the lack of infrastructure needed for growth in lower- and middle-income nations. And third, Finer said it could help “turn the temperature down” on “turbulence and insecurity” coming out of the Middle East.

“We see this as having a high appeal to the countries involved, and also globally, because it is transparent, because it is a high standard, because it is not coercive,” Finer said.

Finer also laid out Biden’s agenda at the G20. The first section of the summit revolves around the theme of “One Earth.” The U.S. president plans to draw on the theme to push for more investments to address climate change, such as his own domestic incentives to encourage the use of renewable energy. Biden also wants to make the case that Russia’s war in Ukraine is hurting many other nations, which have had to cope with greater food and energy costs as well as higher interest rate costs on their debt.

The second section of the summit is about “One Family.” Biden plans to use this portion to discuss his request to Congress for additional funding for the World Bank that could generate more than $25 billion in new lending for economic development.

The White House more broadly is trying to strengthen the G20 as an international forum, while Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin have chosen not to attend. Still, China and Russia are represented at the summit and that could make it difficult for the G20 to produce a joint statement on the war in Ukraine, Finer said.


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