Wilbur Ross, key player in NAFTA negotiations, set to be confirmed as Commerce secretary

Wilbur Ross, the billionaire investor who will play a leading role in President Trump’s revamping of the North American Free Trade Agreement, is expected Monday night to be confirmed easily as the administration’s Commerce secretary.Unlike other Trump nominees...

Wilbur Ross, key player in NAFTA negotiations, set to be confirmed as Commerce secretary

Wilbur Ross, the billionaire investor who will play a leading role in President Trump’s revamping of the North American Free Trade Agreement, is expected Monday night to be confirmed easily as the administration’s Commerce secretary.Unlike other Trump nominees...

27 February 2017 Monday 16:58
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Wilbur Ross, key player in NAFTA negotiations, set to be confirmed as Commerce secretary

Wilbur Ross, the billionaire investor who will play a leading role in President Trump’s revamping of the North American Free Trade Agreement, is expected Monday night to be confirmed easily as the administration’s Commerce secretary.

Unlike other Trump nominees who faced intense opposition from Senate Democrats, Ross had a relatively smooth confirmation hearing and is likely to win approval by a comfortable margin.

This despite initial questions about his vast financial holdings and past involvement turning around distressed companies in textile and auto industries in part by investing in low-cost manufacturing overseas and in Mexico. Trump has blasted such practices for killing American jobs but is now enlisting Ross to help reverse offshoring activities by overhauling trade and other economic policies.

Ross, 79, dealt with concerns about his massive fortune — and the potential conflicts of interest that might raise — by promising to divest most of his assets and step down from positions on multiple companies and foundations. In an agreement with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, Ross said he would retain interests in a dozen entities engaged in real estate and shipping businesses, although most would not undertake new investments after his confirmation.

With Ross on board, Trump is expected in short order to give the required 90-day notice to Congress for the administration to start renegotiating NAFTA. Ross has said that overhauling the 23-year-old pact with Canada and Mexico would be a top priority.

During his confirmation hearing in January, Ross signaled that his agency would look at imposing duties on Chinese steel and possibly other goods that have been dumped at unfairly low prices or subsidized by the state.  

Ross told lawmakers that he opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the massive 12-nation free-trade deal completed by the Obama administration but never ratified. Trump formally withdrew from the agreement after taking office and has threatened to pull out of NAFTA if the U.S. doesn’t get concessions, particularly from Mexico.

Trump’s often-strident talk on trade has put Republican leaders in a hard spot. The GOP has long been the party of free trade. Ross has taken a more measured tone than Trump, saying that he is pro-trade.

Traditionally the head of Commerce has wielded little power in the White House, but the president has indicated that Ross would be the principal Cabinet official in reshaping NAFTA and other trade deals to protect American industries and jobs.

Ross is expected to work with two other key figures on trade in the Trump administration: the U.S. trade representative, a position for which Trump has named veteran trade lawyer and negotiator Robert Lighthizer; and a new White House-based trade council headed by UC Irvine business professor Peter Navarro, a harsh critic of China who made the rounds on Capitol Hill earlier this month.

Navarro’s appointment did not require Senate confirmation. Lighthizer’s does, but a hearing on his nomination has not yet been scheduled, in part because of delays related to Lighthizer’s past work on behalf of foreign government clients.

"Moonlight" won the best picture Oscar after a botched announcement through the ceremony into chaos.

"Moonlight" won the best picture Oscar after a botched announcement through the ceremony into chaos.

"Moonlight" won the best picture Oscar after a botched announcement through the ceremony into chaos.

"Moonlight" won the best picture Oscar after a botched announcement through the ceremony into chaos.

Staff writer Tre'vell Anderson asks 2017 Academy Awards ceremony attendees to discuss the significance of the Oscars.

Staff writer Tre'vell Anderson asks 2017 Academy Awards ceremony attendees to discuss the significance of the Oscars.

Car bomb

Car bomb

Key play in Chino Hills-Mater Dei

Key play in Chino Hills-Mater Dei

It's legal for an ICE agent to pretend to be an officer in an immigration raid. Officer Keith Boyer spent 27 years patrolling the streets of Whittier. Magic Johnson is now in charge of the Lakers. President Trump has withdrawn protections for transgender students. Lawmakers are getting grilled at raucous town-hall meetings.Did you know the red carpet at the Academy Awards isn't truly red? Scientists have found a seven-planet solar system 39 light-years away.

It's legal for an ICE agent to pretend to be an officer in an immigration raid. Officer Keith Boyer spent 27 years patrolling the streets of Whittier. Magic Johnson is now in charge of the Lakers. President Trump has withdrawn protections for transgender students. Lawmakers are getting grilled at raucous town-hall meetings.Did you know the red carpet at the Academy Awards isn't truly red? Scientists have found a seven-planet solar system 39 light-years away.

don.lee@latimes.com

Follow me at @dleelatimes

Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.

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