US President-elect Barack Obama has named Democratic legislator Hilda Solis to serve as labour secretary and former mayor of Dallas Ron Kirk as US trade representative at a Chicago press conference.
AFP - President-elect Barack Obama Friday nominated free trade advocate and former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk as US trade representative to take on the complex, delicate task of juggling global negotiations.
"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."
Kirk, 54, who was the first African-American mayor of Dallas from 1995 to 2001, takes over from Susan Schwab who spent a gruelling two years in the post.
His belief in free trade may put him at odds with Obama who has taken a more cautious approach, opposing a free trade deal with Seoul, and insisting he could seek to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Accord (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada.
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.
"For the past eight years, the Department of Labor has not lived up to its role either as an advocate for hardworking families or as an arbiter of fairness in relations between labor and management," Obama said.
"That will change when Hilda Solis is Secretary of Labor. Under her leadership, I am confident that the Department of Labor will once again stand up for working families."
Putting LaHood in charge of a spending spree on the nation's crumbling infrastructure, Obama vowed he would be part of an administration seeking to "craft a 21st economic recovery plan, with the goal of creating two and a half million new jobs and strengthening our economy for the future."
The 63-year-old is the second Republican named to Obama's cabinet after Robert Gates, who is staying on as secretary of defense.
"We need to remake our transportation system for the 21st century," Obama said.
"Doing so will not only help us meet our energy challenge by building more efficient cars, buses, and subways or make Americans safer by rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, it will create millions of new jobs in the process."
Obama also welcomed a 13.4 billion dollar rescue package put forward by the US government Friday for the country's ailing automakers.
But he warned General Motors, Chrysler and Ford not to "squander this chance to reform bad management practices and begin the long-term restructuring that is absolutely necessary to save this critical industry and the millions of American jobs that depend on it."
The president-elect now leaves on Saturday for a Christmas break in Hawaii.
While these are still early days, Obama can bask in stellar polls since he won the November 4 elections with 83 percent of respondents in a Marist survey Wednesday approving of his performance so far.
"This was one of the more well-organized and well-prepared transitions that we have seen," Princeton University historian Julian Zelizer said.
"Not only has he appointed some very high quality picks in terms of intellectual capacity and experience, but on key areas -- including economics and defense -- he has been able to move to the center without alienating his core supporters," he said.
By common consent, Obama has filled his cabinet quickly but also with much thought to ability as he emulates the "team of rivals" assembled by his political hero, Civil War president Abraham Lincoln.
Led by former nominating rival Hillary Clinton at the State Department, the incoming cabinet has respected technocrat Timothy Geithner at Treasury and two Republicans, including Gates.
While Geithner gets the unenviable task of hauling the US economy out of recession, Gates must exit Iraq and redouble the fight in Afghanistan.
Clinton has no lesser a task of remaking the nation's frayed image abroad, while pursuing Middle East peace, rebuilding a tattered nuclear pact with North Korea and calming a fresh surge in India-Pakistan tensions.
With his other cabinet picks over recent weeks, Obama has vowed to turn back global warming, guarantee every child a world-class education and institute universal healthcare -- an ambitious list at the best of times.
Date created : 2008-12-19