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28 Feb 2017

US Senate confirms Wilbur Ross as commerce secretary in vote

The US Senate voted 72-27 in favour of confirming billionaire investor Wilbur Ross as US commerce secretary.

Ross will serve as President Donald Trump's top trade official entrusted with the task of renegotiating trade ties with China and Mexico.

Ross's confirmation largely received bipartisan support partly because of his efforts in restructuring steel companies which saved thousands of jobs.

In context

US Senate confirms Wilbur Ross as commerce secretary


Who is Wilbur Ross?

79-year-old Ross is a Wall Street multi-billionaire who founded and runs a private equity firm called WL Ross & Co.

His net worth is an estimated $2.9 billion, making him possibly the richest person in Trump's cabinet of billionaires.

He has a background of being one of the world's most sought-after bankruptcy advisers.

His art collection is estimated to be worth $250 million.

What is the US Department of Commerce

The US Department of Commerce is dedicated to promoting economic growth, creating jobs and negotiating favourable international trade agreements. The department has nearly 47,000 federal employees. The US Census Bureau, Patent and Trade Office; and Bureau of Economic Analysis are part of the department.

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"Pro-sensible trade"

Ross's trade stance may vary from Trump's

Some Democrats criticized Ross for being a "vulture" investor who eliminated jobs. Critics accused him of shipping jobs overseas, including to Mexico and China.

"I am pro-trade, but I am pro-sensible trade," Ross said at his confirmation hearing.

He has attempted to temper down some of Trump's trade views, raising questions about whether he'll be in sync with the president's "America First" agenda.

Ross downplayed possibility of US-China trade war

Ross had downplayed possibilities of a trade war with China during his confirmation hearing. However, he did call China the world's "most protectionist" large economy and vowed to provide a levelled playing field for American companies against Chinese ones.

Will divest

Ross has attempted to prevent potential conflict of interest

In a bid to prevent any potential conflict of interests, Ross has agreed to divest from the private equity firm he founded as part of his ethics agreement.

Ross will retain other financial interests.

He has pledged not to act as commerce secretary in way that would benefit any company in which he holds a stake.

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