U.S. President Donald Trump now has a commerce secretary.
Vice-President Mike Pence has administered the oath of office to Wilbur Ross on Tuesday, a day after the Senate voted 72-27 to confirm him.
Ross says he will help promote American business interests in the U.S. and abroad. He’ll also oversee agencies that manage fisheries, weather forecasting and the Census Bureau, which will conduct the next national head count in 2020.
Breaking with Republican orthodoxy, Ross said the Trump administration will work quickly to redo the North American Free Trade Agreement. That’s the massive trade pact with Canada and Mexico that has boosted trade but still stings laid-off workers across the Midwest.
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Senators from both political parties were deferential to Ross at his nearly four-hour confirmation hearing, which was much more subdued than the confirmation hearings of other Trump nominees. Former commerce secretaries have praised him, including one who served under former president Barack Obama.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts criticized Ross’ business ties to Russia and the way he ran a mortgage lender during the housing crisis.
“Mr. Ross has extensive ties to Russia. He plans to keep making money from his major oil shipping companies while working as Commerce Secretary. He’s made billions off the backs of struggling homeowners,” Warren said Monday. “He is practically a cartoon stereotype of a Wall Street fat cat.”
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As part of his ethics agreement, Ross is giving up his position at Diamond S. Shipping, but he will retain a stake in the company, which ships petroleum and other products. As part of the agreement, Ross has promised not to take any action as commerce secretary that would benefit any company in which he has a financial interest.
The 79-year-old Ross is worth an estimated $2.9 billion and has extensive business ties around the world.
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