WASHINGTON — In adding Wilbur Ross and Steve Mnuchin to his cabinet, President-elect Donald Trump has tapped two wealthy financiers to roles that will be key in implementing his promise to get tougher about China and trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and NAFTA.
As widely expected, Trump on Wednesday appointed Ross as Commerce Secretary and former Goldman Sachs executive Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary.
Todd Ricketts, another wealthy donor who is co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, was named deputy Secretary of Commerce.
“Steve Mnuchin is a world-class financier, banker and businessman, and has played a key role in developing our plan to build a dynamic, booming economy that will create millions of jobs,” Trump said. “His expertise and pro-growth ideas make him the ideal candidate to serve as Secretary of the Treasury. He purchased IndyMac Bank for $1.6 billion and ran it very professionally, selling it for $3.4 billion plus a return of capital. That’s the kind of people I want in my administration representing our country.
“Wilbur Ross is a champion of American manufacturing and knows how to help companies succeed. Most importantly, he is one of the greatest negotiators I have ever met, and that comes from me, the author of ‘The Art of the Deal,'” Trump said. “Together, we will take on the special interests and stand up for American jobs. 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 made the announcement this morning after the two executives appeared on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” where they outlined their priorities on tax reform and trade.
Ross and Mnuchin will have to be confirmed by the Senate.
Ross, who has direct ties to the textile industry as former majority owner of International Textile Group, which owns Cone Denim and Burlington Worldwide, said on the show that imposing tariffs on imports from China is not the first line of defense.
“Everybody talks about tariffs as the first thing. Tariffs are the last thing,” he said. “Tariffs are part of the negotiation. The real trick is going to be to increase American exports — get rid of some of the tariff and non-tariff barriers to American exports.”
Asked if the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is a bad deal, Mnuchin said “absolutely.”
Trump said he intends to pull the U.S. out of the sweeping trade deal on Day One of his administration.
“The administration believes in bilateral trade negotiations,” Mnuchin said. “We’ll have very good deals with lots of countries.”
Ross said TPP had “terrible” rules of origin that allowed inputs from other countries such as China to be used in products that still qualified for duty-free treatment.
He used autos as an example, saying “stuff can come in from outside the boundaries of the treaty countries.”
Ross said the “problem” with regional trade agreements such as TPP is you “get picked apart by the first country, then you negotiate with the second country, you get picked apart and when you go with the third you get picked apart again.
“What has to be put into perspective, [is] we are the big market, we are the world’s biggest importer. We need to treat the other countries as good suppliers, not as determining the whole show,” he said.