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US business leaders move on from Trump to Biden

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Nov 24, 2020 - 07:42 AM

NEW YORK — US President Donald Trump may still be trying to overturn Joe Biden’s election win, but the business world — including some Trump backers — is looking ahead towards the new Democratic administration.

Less than two months before the 78-year-old Biden takes the oath of office, corporate heavyweights are pushing him to lean on Congress to get a new economic stimulus plan, as the coronavirus pandemic drags on.

“The next two months are critical to our nation’s ability to successfully deal with twin crises: controlling the spread of Covid-19 and rebuilding the US economy,” the National Association of Manufacturers said.

“There is no time to waste nor room for error,” the group added in a statement, calling on the Trump administration to start cooperating with Biden’s transition team.

But so far, Trump and his White House staff are not admitting defeat, meaning the resources normally at a president-elect’s disposal for a transition are blocked.

Several key business leaders and industry organizations, such as United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby and the US Chamber of Commerce, quickly congratulated Biden once he was declared the projected winner on November 7.

Ten days later, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon took a break from an earnings conference call to offer the veteran Democrat his best wishes.

“We look forward to working with the administration in both houses of Congress to move the country forward,” he said.

Trump, a real estate mogul who often brags about his close ties with the corporate world, especially on Wall Street, has been left behind by some of those very contacts.

Steve Schwarzman, the billionaire co-founder of the Blackstone investment group who is a friend and informal advisor to the president, said Monday that Biden had won.

“The outcome is very certain today, and the country should move on,” he said in a statement sent to AFP.

“I supported President Trump and the strong economic path he built. Like many in the business community, I am ready to help President-elect Biden and his team as they confront the significant challenges of rebuilding our post-COVID economy.”

Also on Monday, General Motors CEO Mary Barra withdrew from a Trump administration-backed challenge to California’s auto emissions rules.

“We are confident that the Biden administration, California, and the US auto industry, which supports 10.3 million jobs, can collaboratively find the pathway that will deliver an all-electric future,” Barra said in a statement.

‘Hit the ground running’ 

Trump has indicated he is no closer to allowing any kind of transition to begin, unleashing a steady stream of incendiary tweets insisting the election was “rigged” — with no proof.

Nevertheless, JPMorgan Chase boss Jamie Dimon — whose relationship with Trump has soured over time — called for a “peaceful transition.”

“Whether you like the outcome or not, you should support the democracy because it is based on a system of faith and trust,” Dimon said last week at a forum hosted by The New York Times.

Among those calling for progress in the transition are groups representing the sectors of the world’s biggest economy that have been hardest hit by the pandemic.

“We need bipartisanship in the Biden administration to ensure economic relief for the industries hardest-hit by Covid-19,” the American Hotel and Lodging Association said.

Despite months of talks between Congressional leaders and the administration, Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill have failed to reach a compromise on new pandemic aid.

AHLA president Chip Rogers pleaded with Congress to “figure this out and stop pointing fingers,” noting: “We’re all suffering.”

Some business leaders have been more specific: while Intel CEO Bob Swan urged Biden to focus on “uniting our nation,” he also targeted the need for progress on investing in digital infrastructure and addressing a “growing skills gap.”

US Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue urged Trump not to delay the transition “a moment longer.”

“President-elect Biden and the team around him have a wealth of executive branch experience that should allow them to hit the ground running,” he said in a statement.

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