Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: 3 Things to Know

Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross was confirmed by the Senate Monday to serve as the next Secretary of Commerce.

Here are three things to know about Ross.

Trade Overhaul on Agenda

Ahead of his confirmation, Ross identified renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement as a top priority for the Trump administration. The president has criticized NAFTA as an unfair trade deal for American workers, arguing that it encourages domestic companies like automakers to make goods in Mexico and ship them back to the U.S.

“I think the pro-growth thing is stimulating exports, much more than just curtailing imports,” Ross told the Senate Commerce Committee during his confirmation hearing.

He also told lawmakers that he will crack down on illegal steel dumping, which has hurt American steel producers by driving down prices.

Tech's Impact on Jobs

Cybersecurity will be another priority for the Commerce Department under Ross. He said the U.S. should develop harsher penalties for countries that perpetrate cyber-attacks in the U.S, warning of potential attacks on the power grid, banking system or transportation system.

New technologies will impact jobs at home, Ross added. He used self-driving cars as an example, noting how autonomous trucks could put three million Americans out of work.

“I think what we have to do is figure out how to make sure we get the benefits of improved technology and yet cope with the dislocation that it will inevitably produce in certain industries,” Ross said.

'King of Bankruptcy'

Ross, 79, became known as the “King of Bankruptcy” for rescuing distressed companies, especially manufacturers, steel makers and coal miners.

The New Jersey native crossed paths with Trump during their business careers. Ross represented bondholders in Trump’s troubled Taj Mahal casino in 1990, and he ultimately struck a deal that helped the casino avoid bankruptcy and allowed Trump to retain control. The largest bondholder was another well-known investor, Carl Icahn, who is serving as a special adviser to the president on overhauling federal regulations.

Ross, whose net worth is $2.5 billion according to Forbes, has said he would divest various holdings and leave WL Ross & Co., the private-equity firm he founded, if confirmed by the Senate. The buyout shop is a division of Invesco (NYSE:IVZ).