January 24, 2017

Wilbur Ross to be Secretary of Commerce


  • Wilbur Ross has vast private-sector experience and a deep understanding of the economy.
  • He has pledged that expanding U.S. exports would be a top priority.
  • Commerce Committee Chairman Thune said that Mr. Ross’s “extensive management experience in the private sector, and his understanding of the challenges faced by workers and businesses alike, will equip him well for the job of leading the Department of Commerce.”

Biography

Mr. Ross currently serves as chairman and chief strategy officer for WL Ross & Co., a private-equity fund that specializes in turning around distressed and undervalued companies. Mr. Ross founded WL Ross & Co. in 2000, after leading Rothschild’s bankruptcy advisory practice. Mr. Ross has significant turnaround experience in the steel, coal, and textile industries. He graduated from Yale and received an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Senate Action

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a confirmation hearing for Mr. Ross on January 18 and favorably reported the nomination by voice vote on January 24.

Considerations

Mr. Ross has vast private-sector experience. As he noted in his committee questionnaire, he has “participated as an owner, lead director, or chairman of over 100 business,” which provides him with a “deep understanding of what makes a successful, job-creating enterprise.” He has “experienced first-hand both the power of innovative technologies to propel U.S. companies to be industry leaders, as well as the job dislocation that can result from these advancing technologies.” In particular, he is “fully familiar with the challenges of global competition” and is “well-versed in the problems of manufacturing industries that are confronting a quickly changing competitive landscape.” Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune predicted that Mr. Ross’s “extensive management experience in the private sector, and his understanding of the challenges faced by workers and businesses alike, will equip him well for the job of leading the Department of Commerce.”

Mr. Ross said that his priorities for the Commerce Department include “expanding U.S. exports and reducing the U.S. trade deficit.” In his prepared remarks before the committee, Mr. Ross explained that he is “not anti-trade,” but rather is “pro sensible trade, not trade that is detrimental to the American worker and to the domestic manufacturing base.” He specified that the U.S. should “not put up with malicious trading activities, state owned enterprises, or subsidized production.” During his confirmation hearing, Mr. Ross declared that renegotiating NAFTA would be an early priority for the Trump administration and proposed an automatic reopening of trade deals after a five-year period. He also said that countries that violate trade rules should be “punished” and “severely” and that “tariffs play a role both as a negotiating tool and if necessary to punish offenders who don't play by the rules.”

Mr. Ross noted that he has been a significant user of Commerce Department data and pledged to maintain and improve the department’s data-collection and dissemination functions. He also said that he would work on making more wireless spectrum available for the public, improving broadband access, and ensuring that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration works better for the domestic fishing industry.

Issue Tag: Senate