President-elect Donald Trump officially tapped private equity billionaire Wilbur Ross to serve as his Secretary of Commerce on Wednesday, giving the so-called "king of bankruptcy" first crack at implementing his economic platform.
"Wilbur knows that cutting taxes for working families, reducing burdensome government regulations and unleashing America's energy resources will strengthen our economy at a time when our country needs to see significant growth," Trump said in a statement.
Ross, 79, served as a senior policy adviser on Trump's campaign. If confirmed, he will be called upon to promote Trump's ostensibly protectionist agenda. The President-elect has vowed to renegotiate, or exit, the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada, withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and take a more aggressive stance towards China.
Ross will have oversight of the International Trade Administration, which promotes U.S. exports of nonagricultural goods, as well as the Economic Development Administration, which provides grants to stimulate job growth in economically distressed areas.
"Protectionism is a pejorative term. It's not really something that's meaningful," Ross said Wednesday on CNBC. "There's trade, sensible trade, and dumb trade. We've been doing a lot of dumb trade. That's the part that's going to get fixed."
In an October Wall Street Journal op-ed, Ross and University of California-Irvine professor Peter Navarro wrote that Trump would be able to eliminate the U.S.' trade deficit through "smart, tough negotiations" and reduce regulatory burdens on domestic business. Navarro did not respond to a request for comment.
Though most observers will be focused on Ross' approach to trade, he will also have control of some more disparate entities thanks to his position, such as the Census Bureau and the National Weather Service.