Joe Biden unveils $700bn proposal to grow US industry

Joe Biden has unveiled a $700bn proposal to grow the American industry, as the focal point of his presidential campaign pitch to lead the nation’s economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

He unveiled policies intended to foster manufacturing and encourage innovation, adopting ideas from his progressive primary rivals but avoided the big-ticket proposals such as the Green New Deal.

The former vice-president’s plan is divided into four areas, which include a push to buy "American" and create manufacturing jobs, costing at least $700bn. The others are building infrastructure and clean energy; advancing racial equity; and modernising the “caring” economy such as childcare and eldercare workers and domestic aides.

“I do not buy for one second that the vitality of American manufacturing is a thing of the past,” Biden said, speaking at a metalworks factory in Dunmore not far from this childhood home of Scranton, a place where he often returns.

Though Biden leads Donald Trump in national and battleground state polls, voters consistently say they trust the president’s stewardship of the economy.

The proposal calls for the federal government to purchase $400bn worth of US goods and services and invest $300bn in research and development of technologies such as electric vehicles, 5G cellular networks and artificial intelligence.

Other policies included in the plan are proposals to make it easier for workers to unionise and bargain collectively and to tighten enforcement of “buy American” laws that are designed to protect American industry but can be easily circumvented.

Mr Biden has long been a champion of the American worker, particularly as vice president, when he led the Obama administration’s Middle Class Task Force and oversaw implementation of the 2009 economic stimulus bill. However, he has faced criticism from Donald Trump and from the likes of Senator Bernie Sanders over his support for the North American Free Trade Agreement in the 1990s and other trade deals that followed.

Biden’s economic recovery plan draws from his Democratic primary opponents, most of whom ran firmly to the left of Biden and embraced sweeping economic reforms such as Medicare for All and a Green New Deal.

The economic agenda contains some echoes to Trump’s “America first” mantra, which matched the populist tenor of the 2016 campaign.

The Pennsylvania speech is the first of several steps by the presidential hopeful to detail an expanded economic agenda, beyond what he proposed in the primaries.

Aides also said that Biden would propose additional deficit spending next year to help the economy recover from the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic. This will build on more than $3 trillion in new borrowing that Congress and Trump have already approved amid the crisis.

Earlier on Wednesday, a Biden-Sanders “unity task force” published 110 pages of platform recommendations, including plans on the economy. Its recommendations included more sweeping proposals than Mr Biden has embraced in the campaign, including a new deal-style federal jobs program to use government funds to put Americans to work on infrastructure and other projects.

Mr. Biden is planning four rollouts ahead of the Democratic National Convention in August on his plans to “mobilise the American people”