WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump is considering Jovita Carranza, a former Small Business Administration executive, as his U.S. Trade Representative, a spokesman said Tuesday.
Putting to rest speculation in recent months, the spokesman also said the Trump administration has no plans to merge the Commerce Department and USTR office. In addition, financier Wilbur Ross, Trump’s designate for Commerce Secretary, will play a leading role in shaping the administration’s trade policy.
Carranza, who is founder and chief executive officer of the business consulting firm JCR Group, would be the first Hispanic Cabinet-level choice if Trump nominates her and she is confirmed by the Senate. She met with Trump on Tuesday at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where the president-elect is spending the holidays with his family.
“With specific regard to Carranza, I can say that that’s a position [USTR] she is being considered for,” the spokesman said, touting her tenure as a deputy administrator at the SBA from 2006 until 2009 under then-President George W. Bush. At SBA, she helped manage more than 80 field offices, as well as a portfolio of direct and guaranteed business loans, venture capital investments and disaster loans of almost $80 billion, according to a background summary on her LinkedIn page.
Carranza also became the “highest-ranking Latina in UPS history” as the vice president of air operations and president of operations for Latin America and the Caribbean, leading operations in 41 countries, as well as acquisitions in Latin America, her bio said.
She was a member of Trump’s Hispanic Advisory Council during the campaign and also ran a call center out of her home, making thousands of phone calls targeting Hispanic voters in North Carolina, the spokesman said.
Carranza serves on several boards, including the Illinois Enterprise Zone Board, United Way and the National Center for Family Literacy and was named “Woman of the Year” by Hispanic Business magazine.
Dan DiMicco, former chief executive officer of Nucor Steel, who is leading Trump’s “landing team” at the U.S. Trade Representative’s office and has been a critic of free-trade policies in the U.S., has also met recently with Trump and is being considered for the position, as is Robert Lighthizer, an attorney specializing in international trade at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and a former deputy U.S. Trade Representative in the Reagan administration. Wayne Berman, a senior executive with the Blackstone Group who worked as a former Commerce official under President George H.W. Bush, and Rep. Charles Boustany (R.,La.), a free trade and strong enforcement advocate, are also reportedly in the running for the top trade spot.
Responding to a reporter’s question about DiMicco and Lighthizer potentially being considered for USTR, the spokesman said they “could possibly be in the mix.”
The USTR has traditionally led trade negotiations as the chief trade ambassador, as well as trade enforcement actions at the World Trade Organization, but Trump’s spokesman appeared to suggest that Ross and the Commerce Department will play the bigger role in Trump’s trade agenda.
“I can tell you that there is no talk of the U.S. Trade Representative’s office being merged into Commerce,” the spokesman said. “That will still be its own entity and they will still perform all of the functions that USTR normally would do, but Mr. Ross will be playing a big role in any trade particulars in this administration.”
Ross, a billionaire investor, has direct ties to the textile industry as former majority owner of International Textile Group, which owns Cone Denim and Burlington Worldwide. He is seen as someone who might serve as a counterweight to Trump’s more protectionist trade policy proposals.
Ross has resuscitated bankrupt companies through his private equity firm, WL Ross & Co., and saved jobs that might have been lost otherwise. He sold his investment firm in 2006 to Invesco, an Atlanta-based investment company, but has remained chairman and chief strategist.
Trump has already vowed to pull the U.S. out of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership deal on the first day of his administration and he has also pledged to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, label China a currency manipulator and impose tariffs as high as 45 percent on Chinese imports.
“Commerce Secretary-designate Wilbur Ross will ultimately direct much of the administration’s trade policy at the direction of President-elect Trump,” the spokesman said. “Mr. Ross is someone who not only has negotiated some very good deals over his lifetime. He’s also the person who worked closely with the president-elect on crafting his trade policy. That is someone who will be very intimately involved with setting much of the overall direction.”