Aecon back on US-Canada bridge team
- The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority has approved Canada-based Aecon Group's request to rejoin Bridging North America, the consortium that will design, build, finance, operate and maintain the Gordie Howe International Bridge. Costs for the new U.S.-Canada border crossing are estimated at up to CA $3.7 billion.
- Aecon and its subsidiaries withdrew from the project prior to the Canadian government's rejection of its planned $1.1 billion sale to China Communications Construction International. The Canadian Press reported that Ottawa had national security concerns about the Chinese company acquiring Aecon because the contractor has worked on some of the country's biggest infrastructure projects and is privy to sensitive information about their workings.
- The issue of national security, according to the Windsor Star, also played a role in Aecon's withdrawal from Bridging North America in May. The possibility that a Chinese-controlled Aecon would have access to logistical and other information about the movement of goods between Canada and the U.S. during the public-private partnership's 30-year operations and maintenance period reportedly raised concerns with officials from both countries. Bridging North America, which includes infrastructure heavy hitters Dragados and Fluor, expect financial close by the end of September.
Aecon recently announced that it had a backlog of more than CA$4.6 billion ($3.5 billion), with CA$910 million ($696 million) worth of projects booked in the first quarter of 2018 alone. At the time the deal was being negotiated, according to Reuters, Lu Kang, spokesperson for China's foreign ministry, said he hoped Canada could "abandon its prejudices" and not cut China out of economic opportunities because of "politicization of this kind of trade and investment activity."
Some American AEC companies have taken full advantage of the Chinese business prospects open to them. For example, San Francisco-based architecture firm Gensler and global engineering giant Thornton Tomasetti played key design and engineering roles for the Shanghai Tower. The skyscraper is currently the second tallest building in the world.
Los Angeles-based construction and engineering company AECOM also struck a deal earlier this year with China's Shanghai Greenland Construction Group that could see the two work jointly on integrated delivery projects around the world. The companies worked together on the $1.2 billion Metropolis project in downtown Los Angeles and will build the London Spire together, an undertaking that has been billed as the tallest residential project in Western Europe.
One wildcard that could affect the relationship between Chinese and U.S. companies going forward is the development of a contentious trade war. In March, President Donald Trump placed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from countries he and his administration accused of dumping products into the U.S. market. However, the president also slapped duties on other Chinese goods in an effort to combat alleged intellectual property theft. China has responded in kind with its own tariffs and filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization. China and the U.S. are set to begin another round of trade talks this week.
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