Wilbur Ross is likely to be confirmed as President Donald Trump’s secretary of commerce Monday despite unanswered questions about his ownership of a Cyprus bank that caters to wealthy Russians.
While supporters say Ross saved thousands of U.S. jobs by rescuing firms from failure, data attained by Reuters shows that rescue effort came at a price: textile, finance and auto-parts companies controlled by the private-equity titan eliminated about 2,700 U.S. positions since 2004 because they shipped production to other countries.
Ross’ history owning and defending embattled steel and textile manufacturing companies that have relied on border duties to protect their industries means he will bring a unique approach to the commerce secretary job, departing from the traditional role of cheerleading for free trade and big business.
Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, tapped by Trump to serve as his secretary of commerce, has been the top shareholder in a Cypriot bank with deep Russian ties and investors who made their fortunes under Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Traditionally, the USTR takes the lead on negotiations for trade deals, while Commerce, a massive sprawling agency, handles enforcement actions including anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations of low-cost imports.
Wilbur Ross has made a fortune in the steel industry — an industry of which the Commerce Department has significant oversight. In fact, the Commerce Department is slated to make no fewer than five decisions about steel trade soon after the inauguration which will directly affect businesses that Ross has a stake in.
The flurry of picks showed Trump, a real estate tycoon with no governing experience, rewarding loyalists and established Washington veterans as he rounds out his circle of top advisers.