The paranoia over security in America didn't just spoil our blogger's daytrip to the Statue of Liberty, it is also making life difficult for international firms trying to enter the growing PPP market.
I've just spent 10 days in the US, and the papers there make grim reading for anyone in the UK construction industry who thinks they might be able to make a mint out of our transatlantic neighbour's burgeoning PPP market. The headlines are clear: in an age of terror and a globalisation-fuelled loss of manufacturing jobs, Americans fear foreigners taking over their infrastructure.
A striking example is a $3.85bn toll road deal proposed in Indianapolis. A Spanish-Australian consortium would take over the running and maintenance of the road for 75 years, and this has become a flagship policy of the state's governor, Mitch Daniels. But as his support for the deal has strengthened, so his approval rating has plummeted from 55% to 37% in just two years. Nearly two-thirds of Indianapolis residents disapprove of the concession, and 47% of those cite handing over the road to a foreign consortium as their primary fear.
What makes this case particularly interesting are the firms that make up the consortium: Australian infrastructure investor Macquarie and Spanish transport giant Cintra. The latter is a subsidiary of Ferrovial, the Spanish construction group that is currently mulling over an offer for Heathrow and Gatwick airports operator BAA. To make this offer, Ferrovial needs to form a consortium, and it has been rumoured that Macquarie could be a key member of this team.
I have found this unlikely for a while - although they have worked together on projects all over the world, relations between the two are understood to have cooled in recent times as they have found themselves aggressively bidding against each other for major contracts, such as the running of Brussels airport.
Also, the projects that they have recently bid for together have gone rather badly - besides the problems in Indianapolis, their proposed purchase of Exeter airport unravelled at the end of last year. I think the result is that Ferrovial will be looking to others to make up its team.
Returning to the US issue, perhaps the most important symbol of the country's fear of foreign investment is the furore over the country's ports deal. Every television channel and newspaper is crammed full of reactionary ire to P&O's decision to sell ports to Dubai Ports World.
Democrats and Republicans alike have condemned President Bush's endorsement of the deal, saying that it will undermine the US's attempts to prevent terrorist attacks. This all seems rather ridiculous. Firstly, the fact is that the deal will only involve the sale of 30% of the terminals at just six of the nation's 130 ports. Secondly, and far more importantly, somewhere along the line these opportunistic politicians have forgotten that the United Arab Emirates is a US ally.
The fear of terrorism in the US is extraordinary, suffocating, paralysing. This goes beyond major deals and strikes right at the heart of every day life - with its fanatical security ranging from checking shoes to tests for chemical weapons. A simple trip to Liberty Island to see the famous statue becomes an ordeal that lasts several hours and achieves little but instil a sense of apprehension among its visitors.
The security is run by Wackenhut - the firm best known at the start of the century for the problems in the prisons it ran, which included four inmate homicides in its New Mexico facilities over a nine-month period in the late 90s. A security guard was also murdered.
Although Wackenhut has overcome its problems, this surely just goes to show that even domestic companies have their problems, and so they should be willing to look to the best European and Middle Eastern firms. However, this will not be the case in the US until its leaders remember that great countries and economies are those that look to new ideas, while declining empires live in a state of perpetual fear.