General Electric Inks High-Speed Rail Deal With Chinese Government

While President Obama grappled with political concerns during his trip to China this week, General Electric was busy signing technology-sharing agreements with Beijing partners -- including a high-speed rail pact that positions GE to leap ahead of its competitors in the race for business from the Obama administration's bullet train rollout.

china_high_speed_rail_plans_economic_stimulus.jpgOne of China's high-speed rail cars. (Photo: TreeHugger)

The deal involves a net gain for both parties. GE plans to share its low-emissions Evolution Series technology with CSR Qishuyan, China's biggest diesel locomotives company, while China's Ministry of Railways will license high-speed rail technology to GE.

And given American policymakers' concerns that U.S. "high-speed" trains will be too slow to compete with overseas models, it's worth underscoring that the GE-China deal has a target speed of 350 kilometers per hour, or about 220 mph.

The deal, which GE says could provide up to 3,500 U.S. jobs, requires 80 percent of the materials for high-speed rail construction and 100 percent of the assembly to come from American sources. From the statement issued by Tim Schweikert, president of GE Transportation China:

High-speed Rail in the U.S. and in markets worldwide is a significant opportunity for infrastructure and business growth. With the signing of today's framework agreement, GE and China’s Ministry of Railways have provided the basis for a cooperation-focused framework that will enhance economic development, create new jobs and promote research and development for high-speed railway technology.

While GE currently is the world leader in locomotive diesel-electric and electronic control systems technology, China currently is a leader in high-speed rail technology for speeds of 220 miles per hour. Working together, both parties could develop the best solutions faster to serve America’s high-speed rail needs for many years to come.

Mid-Morning Update: Obama administration officials, conducting their daily press briefing from China, emphasized the U.S. president's interest in exploring how Beijing is handling the infrastructure and transportation needs of its growing urban population.

"[P]articularly as it pertains to issues around clean energy and infrastructure ... these are similar challenges that the United States and China face both nationally and within our cities," deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said, according to a transcript of the Beijing press briefing.

Jon Huntsman Jr., the U.S. ambassador to China, added that transportation and infrastructure were high on the list of questions Obama asked during a Monday luncheon with Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng.