By: Zack Duvall
In what has been one of the easiest confirmation hearings for any nominee to a cabinet position that the Trump administration has put forth, 79-year old billionaire investor Wilbur Ross was confirmed by a Senate vote of 72-27.
The confirmation, of the man who is widely expected to become the Trump administration’s “trade czar”, comes just as officials begin what the President has called “bi-lateral” trade deal negotiations with countries such as China and Mexico.
Many analysts and experts expect Ross to be the most influential figure in shaping the President’s trade and economic policy. Already being considered the driving force behind President Trump’s objection and termination of American involvement in the Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP.
“I expect that Ross will quickly become the administration’s chief trade spokesman.” Gary Hubaur, senior fellow and trade expert at Peterson Institute for International Economics told reporters about the news of Ross’s confirmation.
Ross not only received strong support from Republicans, but many Democrats as well. In fact, Ross received an official endorsement from the United Steelworkers union because of his investments and leadership in the steel industry during the early 2000’s. He is credited with saving thousands of jobs and improving the viability of the companies that he invested in.
However, despite the amount of bi-partisan support and praise that Ross has received so far, according to Reuters, Ross has been called a “vulture investor”. Reuters also reports that since 2004, Ross owned companies have outsourced roughly 2700 jobs.
However, supporters point to the thousands of jobs he saved and kept in America as reflective of the type of leader he is and the policies he would seek to implement.
President Trump has already showed that he will rely on Ross to fulfill duties outside of the normal scope of the Commerce Secretary’s traditional job requirements, by placing him in charge of the renegotiation of NAFTA with Mexico and Canada, a job that would have normally gone to the U.S. Trade Representative’s office in the past.
Wilbur, who built much of his fortune in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s through investments in textile, steel, and auto parts companies, is estimated by Forbes to be worth 2.9 billion, and is known fro restructuring companies he invested in to benefit from trade tariff protection, put in place by the Commerce department.