WILMINGTON: US President-elect Joe Biden leaves the Queen Theater after he named his economic team on Tuesday in Wilmington, Delaware. - AFP

WILMINGTON: President-elect Joe Biden presented his economic team on Tuesday and pledged they would lead the charge on a plan to provide more relief for the faltering US economy, which his nominee for Treasury secretary called an "American tragedy." The diverse group, featuring women and minorities in key roles, is set to inherit the fallout from millions of job losses-including an ongoing wave of corporations laying off workers and small businesses shutting their doors as the number of virus cases spikes.

Even with good news on possible vaccines, economists warn they may not come soon enough to prevent further damage as an initial sharp recovery loses steam. "I know times are tough, but I want you to know that help is on the way," Biden said at the event to introduce the "tested and experienced" team led by former Fed chief Janet Yellen, his pick for Treasury secretary.

He called on Congress to rapidly approve a "robust" new relief package, but said anything accomplished by the lame-duck legislature will not be enough. "We need to act now and we need to work together," Biden said, promising to "build a new American economy that works for all Americans." He said his team already is working on a new plan that can be launched "on day one" to revive the economy and create more than 18 million jobs through investments in infrastructure, clean energy and manufacturing. The world's largest economy shed more than 20 million jobs in the early weeks of the pandemic, and has regained only about half of those.

Joe Biden will keep Donald Trump's trade-war tariffs on China for the time being when he moves into the Oval Office next month, the president-elect has told US media. Rancor and recrimination have defined the relationship between the world's two biggest economies over the last four years, with Trump slapping import fees on billions of dollars' worth of Chinese goods with tariffs.

Biden meanwhile has been a strident critic of China's human rights record and analysts have predicted his administration will maintain a hawkish posture towards Beijing. "I'm not going to make any immediate moves, and the same applies to the tariffs," Biden told the New York Times in an interview published yesterday.

"I'm not going to prejudice my options." Since winning last month's presidential election, Biden has hinted at a trade policy that would mend Washington's alliances with Europe and the Asia-Pacific. He has said the United States must join forces with other world democracies to present a united front in global trade policy as a counterweight to China.

Biden has targeted Beijing on several fronts and singled out Chinese President Xi Jinping during a debate with other presidential candidates in February. "This is a guy who doesn't have a democratic - with a small d - bone in his body," he said then. "This is a guy who is a thug." His campaign also referred to the crackdown on the Muslim Uighur minority in China's Xinjiang province as a "genocide," provocative language to Beijing with potential ramifications under international law.

American tragedy-
Yellen previously made history as the first woman to lead the Fed, and would score another first if confirmed as Treasury secretary, a job that has never been held by a woman. She is well regarded for navigating the central bank through the aftermath of the global financial crisis, and said the country is facing another "historic" crisis that is hitting the most vulnerable people the hardest.

Yellen warned that "inaction will produce self-reinforcing downturn causing yet more devastation." "So many people struggling to put food on the table and pay bills and rent. It's an American tragedy," she said. Outgoing Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday reiterated his support for forging a compromise, although he said it should be a limited package. "I will continue to work with Congress," Mnuchin said. "I urge Congress to pass something quickly."

The goal is to enact a successor to the $2.2 trillion CARES Act after its main provisions expired earlier this year, and with more Americans losing aid just after Christmas. But the negotiations remain at an impasse and, without support from Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, the two sides face a tough fight for approval in the final weeks of Donald Trump's presidency. McConnell told reporters Tuesday he received a new proposal from top Democrats and is gauging what kind of deal Trump is willing to sign-and what other Republican lawmakers are willing to support.

"We just don't have time to waste," he said, acknowledging that a package would "require bipartisan support to get out of the Congress." Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke to Mnuchin on Tuesday and said agreement on a new relief package is "long overdue." They also discussed a budget deal to avert a government shutdown on December 11, and Pelosi noted progress on a bipartisan spending package. - AFP