Wilbur J. Ross, Jr., the billionaire investor who is one of Donald Trump’s closest advisors on trade and economics, has extensive Russian financial ties that the Senate must thoroughly explore before voting on his nomination as Commerce Secretary.
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.
The Senate Commerce Committee said on Tuesday it was moving Ross’s hearing to Jan. 18 from Jan. 12 because Ross has not completed all of the necessary government paperwork. The Ross delay came shortly after postponements of hearings for Trump’s choices to head the Education and Labor departments.
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.
Lighthizer is not expected to be the Trump administration’s leading voice on trade policy. Last month, Trump’s team said that task would fall to the U.S. Commerce Secretary nominee, billionaire investor Wilbur Ross.
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.
During the campaign, Trump shrieked “pay for play!” to defame the Clintons over and over again, without proof. But now he is doling out top positions in government to the patrons of his campaign, his businesses, and even his foundation.To Trump, a post in his cabinet is not a commitment of trust granted on behalf of the people, but a plum to bestow on any crony who once did him a favor.
In Trump’s picks for economic and domestic policymaking jobs, there’s a consistent underlying thread. Most of them could have been nominated by any GOP nominee. There’s nary a populist among them — not even the conservative kind.