United States President-elect Joe Biden is set to introduce the governor of Rhode Island, the mayor of Boston and a small-business advocate from California as the newest members of his economic team.
Biden on Thursday announced Governor Gina Raimondo as his choice to become commerce secretary, Mayor Marty Walsh as his candidate for labour secretary and Isabel Guzman as his pick to lead the Small Business Administration.
One of Biden’s top challenges after he takes office on January 20 will be to nurse an economy reeling from the coronavirus pandemic back to health. He said the newest members of his economic team will help achieve that “by building an economy where every American is in on the deal”.
“They share my belief that the middle class built this country and that unions built the middle class,” said Biden, who planned to introduce Raimondo, Walsh, Guzman and a fourth candidate at an event Friday in Wilmington, Delaware.
With the picks, which require Senate confirmation, Biden moved a step closer to rounding out a Cabinet that he has pledged will be the most diverse in history. He has yet to name a candidate for CIA director.
Raimondo, 49, is a former venture capitalist serving her second term as Rhode Island’s governor after previously serving as state treasurer. A Democrat, she had been mentioned as a possible candidate for Biden’s health secretary but said last month that she would stay in Rhode Island and continue to focus on the coronavirus pandemic.
As commerce secretary, Raimondo would help set the Biden administration’s trade policy and promote US opportunities for growth domestically and overseas.
“Rhode Island may be small, but our economy is mighty on the strength of our small businesses and innovative technologies,” Raimondo tweeted Thursday night. She pledged that as commerce secretary she would “harness that same American ingenuity to create good-paying union jobs and build our economy back better than ever before.”
The Biden administration’s stance on international trade will likely mark a significant shift away from President Donald Trump’s heavy-on-tariffs approach. Trump slapped tariffs on Chinese steel and other goods to punish Beijing for what the administration said were unfair currency practices and potential national security threats. Those moves were largely opposed by US allies, including Canada.
Biden opposes Chinese tariffs and has promised to improve US relationships with countries around the hemisphere and globe. But he hasn’t indicated that undoing the tariffs will be a top priority.
Instead, Biden has promised to oversee an aggressive “Buy American” campaign that would use federal funds to purchase $400bn of US-made goods and spend another $300bn on new research and development from domestic technology firms.
Walsh, 53, has been Boston’s mayor since 2014. When the Democrat took the oath of office in 2018 for his second term, Biden presided over the inauguration. Walsh was a state representative for more than a decade before becoming mayor.
He also has a long history with organised labour, formerly serving as president of Laborers Local 223 and heading the Boston Building Trades — a union umbrella organisation.
The son of Irish immigrants, Walsh grew up in Boston’s working-class Dorchester neighbourhood. He survived a childhood bout with cancer and has been open about his early struggles with alcohol, using his history with addiction to encourage people to get help.
He opened his speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention by saying: “Good evening. My name is Marty Walsh, and I’m an alcoholic.”
Walsh on Thursday pledged as labour secretary to work as hard for working people and those trying to move into the middle class “as you do for your families and livelihoods. You have my word.”
Leaders of the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), two major organised labour groups, backed Walsh’s selection.
To lead the Small Business Administration (SBA), Biden said he had settled on Isabel Guzman, director of California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate in the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.
Guzman has played a role in the state’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff at the SBA, the federal agency she’s been tapped to lead, and was an adviser at the first California-chartered, Latino-formed business bank to form in Los Angeles in over 35 years.
Biden also tapped Don Graves, one of his longtime advisers, to be the deputy commerce secretary.
Last month, the president-elect named the senior members of his economic team, including former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to be treasury secretary – the first woman to hold the post if she is confirmed by the Senate.