Obama names Richardson as commerce secretary

December 4th, 2008 - 2:39 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Dec 4 (DPA) US president-elect Barack Obama nominated Bill Richardson as his commerce secretary Wednesday, the first Hispanic member of his cabinet and the latest key player in the new administration’s economic recovery team.Richardson, who endorsed Obama for president after his own abbreviated run for the White House this year, brings a wealth of experience in executive and legislative positions to Obama’s administration, which will take over Jan 20.

Richardson, 61, served as United Nations ambassador and energy secretary under former president Bill Clinton, the last Democrat in the White House. He has served as governor of New Mexico since 2003, a state he also represented for more than a decade in the US Congress.

“Bill brings both international stature and a deep understanding of today’s global economy,” Obama said at a press conference in Chicago.

“Bill knows America’s reputation in the world is critical not just to our security but to our prosperity,” he said.

Media reports said Richardson had privately hoped to become secretary of state, a position awarded to Obama’s one-time presidential rival and former first lady Hillary Clinton earlier this week.

Obama said Richardson, who has also taken on mediation roles for the US in global conflicts, would be “the leading economic diplomat for America.”

As head of commerce, he will be tasked with boosting trade within the US and managing free-trade agreements and economic relations with other countries.

“There’s a vital role for the Department of Commerce in our economic recovery,” Richardson said in accepting the nomination. “Boosting commerce between states and nations is not just a path to solvency and growth, it’s the only path.”

Obama has pushed for more labour and environmental standards in future trade deals and suggested during the campaign that he would seek to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Obama has rolled out most of the highest-profile cabinet posts over the past 10 days as part of a speedy presidential transition, including Tim Geithner as Treasury secretary and keeping Robert Gates as secretary of defence.

Obama will take on an economy in recession and faces the first wartime transition of power since the Vietnam War. Obama’s team will also mark the first handover since the Sep 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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