President-elect Barack Obama signaled a major shift in trade policy and labour relations as he rounded out a cabinet of 'rivals' tasked with implementing an ambitious US economic recovery plan.
Obama said yesterday trade agreements will have to be reciprocal and include "enforceable" environmental and labour standards to prevent a "race to the bottom" and a further loss of US jobs.
"In the global economy we must compete and win if we are going to strengthen the middle class and forge bonds with other nations to contribute to peace and stability around the world," Obama said as he completed his cabinet line-up.
"But I also believe that any trade agreement we sign must be written not just with the interests of big corporations in mind, but with the interests of our whole nation and our workers at heart."
Obama tapped free trade advocate and former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk, 54, as US trade representative to take on the complex, delicate task of juggling global negotiations.
"Like President-elect Obama, I believe a values-driven agenda that stays true to our commitment to America's workers and environmental sustainability is not only consistent with a pro-trade agenda, but it's also necessary for its success," Kirk said.
Obama, who takes office on January 20, also named Democratic lawmaker Hilda Solis as labor secretary to stand up for working families, and a former Republican congressman Ray LaHood as transport secretary to rebuild the country's transportation system.