GREENWICH — On the day that Pfizer announced promising data on its under-development coronavirus vaccine, the founder of Westport-based hedge fund giant Bridgewater Associates expressed confidence that the global economy would emerge in the near future from the worst of the pandemic.

But the U.S. would still have to tackle complex questions about its stark divides, monetary and fiscal policies. and its relationship with China, according to Ray Dalio of Greenwich. He gave his post-election assessment of the country’s prospects Monday during the first day of the all-digital Greenwich Economic Forum conference, which also featured former White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

“The new trials indicate something like a 90 percent effectiveness rate, so that’s great,” Dalio said during an online “fireside chat” with The Economist finance editor Rachana Shanbogue. “One way or another, the virus will go away over the next year, I think. … Then we’ll go back to relatively normal, we assume. Except we’re also going to be stuck with the issues (predating) the virus.”

As he did in his appearance at last year’s conference, Dalio highlighted his concern about the country’s political and economic division.

“We have the largest political divide and wealth divide in the country since the 1930s,” said Dalio, a billionaire who ranks as Connecticut’s wealthiest resident, according to several measures. “The most important thing for any country is to try to deal with those gaps in the united way and not to have a win-at-any cost internal battle. There’s literally a risk of a civil war if that’s not handled right in various ways.”

Dalio did not comment specifically on the presumed election of Joe Biden as president, but he said, “I think it’s a good thing that the Republicans might win the Senate because I think you have a population that (has) two very strongly opposed ideologies.”

The new Congress and Biden will have to be mindful of the “debt-and-money issue,” he said.

“We have quite a lot of debt, and we’re running large deficits one way or another,” said Dalio, who is now Bridgewater’s co-chief investment officer and co-chairman. “We’re funding that with the printing of money. … It diminishes the value of money and raises the value of other assets like stocks and so on and has implications for the currency.”

American relations with China are also a key interest for Dalio, who said he has been traveling there since 1984. The U.S. is now engaged in conflicts with China that focus on trade, technology, geopolitics, capital and the military, but he said the countries could still forge a “mutual respect.”

“I think that’s the best possible outcome, all things considered,” Dalio said.

Lew, Mulvaney assess economy and election

Among the other speakers Monday, Lew also expressed his optimism about the Pfizer vaccine trials. He cautioned that the U.S. economy would not fully recover until the coronavirus was contained.

“Even with the good GDP numbers, we’re still three to four percent below where we were before (coronavirus),” Lew, who served as Treasury Secretary from 2013 to 2017, said in an interview with Shanbogue. “We need to get our hands around the health crisis for the economy to get back on its feet in a sustainable way.”

During a panel discussion, Citibank Global Chief Economist Catherine Mann said that compared with a second term for Donald Trump, a Biden presidency would be “far more beneficial” for the global economy.

“The direction that we saw for this was, of course, the degree to which there was going to be a multilateralism approach both in terms of two key areas — climate change and trade,” Mann said. “The Biden presidency will have a much more multilateral and alliance approach to the climate agenda and returning to the Paris (climate) Agreement.”

Mulvaney, acting chief of staff at the White House from January 2019 to March 2020 and now the U.S. special envoy for Northern Ireland, also participated in the panel. Compared with Mann, he said, “I’m not as sanguine about the outlook. … I think right now it’s a mixed bag.”

In an opinion piece published Saturday in The Wall Street Journal, Mulvaney wrote that Trump would participate in peaceful transfer of power.

Trump has not conceded so far, and Mulvaney wrote that Trump “will fight like a gladiator until the election is conclusively determined.”

In the panel, Mulvaney said Trump could not indefinitely litigate the election results.

“If you’re going to challenge the outcome of a presidential election, you have to have more than just allegations (of election fraud), you have to have facts,” Mulvaney told the panel. “Not to say that time has expired now (to challenge), but it is quickly expiring for them in terms of they’ve got a week or two before they run out of time.”

Mulvaney also said, “The math in my head is that (Trump) is better off, under more circumstances, by leaving gracefully than leaving under some type of cloud. Do I think he is actually going to show up at the inauguration — probably not. But that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a chaotic sort of removal.”

The Greenwich Economic Forum will continue Tuesday and Wednesday. GEF is taking place in an all-online format this year in response to coronavirus, after it was held its first two years at the Delamar hotel in Greenwich.

pschott@stamfordadvocate.com; twitter: @paulschott