Trump infra council to draw on real estate expertise

The body will look for ways to promote PPPs as the administration aims to spur $1trn in spending.

An infrastructure advisory council established within the US Department of Commerce will look to identify ways to increase public-private partnerships and develop funding and financing options for an infrastructure push.

President Donald Trump officially launched the council with an executive order on Wednesday. The council will have no more than 15 members, the order stated, with two council members serving as co-chairs.

In April, Trump told The New York Times that he planned to appoint advisors Steven Roth and Richard LeFrak, both real estate developers, to head his infrastructure council. In a list of sectors from which council members may be drawn, last week’s executive order puts real estate at the top.

The order suggests the administration will take a broad view of infrastructure, including broadband, pipelines and renewable energy development.

Trump has highlighted the need for infrastructure improvements, promising to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment through $200 billion in direct federal spending over the next decade, with a focus on leveraging private sector dollars. But the proposed 2018 budget also contained $2.4 billion in cuts to the transportation department. Overall, cuts to transportation and other departments tasked with infrastructure spending would roughly offset the $200 billion increase over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

In May, alongside its budget proposal, the administration released a six-page infrastructure plan outlining goals for its initiative. A more detailed proposal is expected this autumn.

The council will be one of at least two bodies exploring infrastructure policy for the administration. James Ray, a former KPMG principal with a background in PPPs, will also head an infrastructure task force from the Department of Transportation, though it is unclear how these two groups will interact. The president’s business advisory council also comprises members with infrastructure experience, including Adebayo Ogunlesi, chairman of Global Infrastructure Partners.

The advisory council will disband shortly after submitting a report of its findings and recommendations to the president.