Joe Biden has unveiled a $700bn plan to create jobs and invest in new technologies in a challenge to President Donald Trump on economic policy, as the sides clashed in the key election battleground state of Pennsylvania.

The Democratic challenger presented his sweeping "Build Back Better" proposal, a contrast to Mr Trump's "America first" agenda, during a speech at a metal works plant in a swing state critical to either candidate's victory in November.

Vice President Mike Pence was simultaneously barnstorming Pennsylvania, defending his boss's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and assuring voters that Mr Trump was best qualified to revive the sputtering economy.

Mr Biden's manufacturing and innovation plan aims to bring back positions lost during the coronavirus pandemic, and create more than five million new jobs by investing in domestic production and research and shrinking foreign supply chains. 

The multi-pronged approach also tightens "Buy America" guidelines, promotes new tax rules including hiking the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21%, and expands union access to empower US workers.


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"That's what my plan is, to build back better," Mr Biden told ironworkers after touring their 101-year-old factory near Scranton, the blue-collar city where the former vice president grew up.

The goal, he said, is "to sharpen America's competitive edge" in new industries like battery technology, artificial intelligence, biotechnologies and clean energy. "That's the future."

Mr Biden said he rejects the "defeatist view" that automation and globalisation will sap well-paid US jobs.

"American manufacturing was the functioning arsenal of democracy in World War II, and has to be part of the engine of new prosperity in America now," he said.

Mr Biden's plan to protect US workers underscores a recognition that, despite Mr Trump's poor job approval numbers, voters still see him as stronger than Mr Biden on handling the economy.

But Mr Biden drew a sharp contrast with his billionaire rival, highlighting his working-class upbringing and even making a side-trip to his old Scranton neighbourhood.

Mr Trump won in 2016 largely on the promise of bringing back lost manufacturing jobs.

Mr Biden accused him of turning his back on the working class.

"Trump has simply given up," Mr Biden said, adding that American families are "paying the price for this administration's incompetence".

While the president repeatedly invokes American business as a leading force in economic revival, Mr Biden's plan relies on the federal government to "bolster American industrial and technological strength".

It proposes a $400 billion investment in domestic product procurement, and $300 billion for research and development as well as breakthrough technologies including reusable energy and electric vehicles.

"This will be a mobilisation of R&D and procurement investment in ways not seen since the Great Depression and World War II," Mr Biden said.

Mr Pence's arrival in the state signalled the White House's all-out fight for Pennsylvania, which flipped to Mr Trump in 2016 but now leans towards Mr Biden.

"I know, not far from here Joe Biden is at another company, talking about his plans for the economy going forward. And I think the choice has never been clearer for the American people," Mr Pence told a round-table in the town of Malvern.

Later in Philadelphia at a Fraternal Order of Police rally, he attacked "radical" leftists for "trying to smear police officers".

The remark reflected the intense debates over racial injustice and policing that have marked coast-to-coast protests following the police killing of African-American man George Floyd.

Mr Trump's team also accused Mr Biden of aligning with his progressive former campaign rival Bernie Sanders to unveil joint policy proposals on Wednesday, including ambitious climate change mandates, that would plunge the country "into economic catastrophe".

Mr Biden, meanwhile, sharply criticised Mr Trump for being woefully unprepared to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 133,000 Americans, and ignoring the plight of working-class families.

"He's exactly the wrong person to lead in this moment," Mr Biden said.

Mr Biden holds a sizeable 8.8% lead over Mr Trump nationally, according to a RealClearPolitics poll aggregate.

The Democrat also leads in swing states that Mr Trump won in 2016, including Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.