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Commerce Secretary Confirmed, Trade Advisors Named

Wednesday, March 01, 2017
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

Businessman Wilbur Ross was confirmed as secretary of commerce Feb. 27 by a 72-27 Senate vote. The same day the White House named several senior trade policy advisors to the staff of the National Economic Council.

Ross is expected to play a larger role than is typical for a commerce secretary in the formulation of U.S. trade policy, which appears likely to focus more on protection of domestic industries under the Trump administration. Ross signaled his willingness to pursue such a course in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, telling senators that the U.S. “should provide access to our markets to those countries who play fair” and that “those who do not … should be punished and severely.” Committee Chairman John Thune asserted that Ross’ “expertise in revitalizing distressed businesses” in the steel, textile, and other industries and his “understanding of the challenges faced by workers and businesses alike … will equip him well” for his new role. One of Ross’ first priorities will be leading the renegotiation of NAFTA, which could get underway within the next few months.

The National Economic Council announced that Kenneth I. Juster will serve as deputy assistant to the president for international economic affairs and deputy director of the NEC, where he will serve as lead U.S. negotiator (Sherpa) for the annual G-7, G-20, and APEC summits. Juster previously served as under secretary of commerce and in senior advisor roles with the Department of State. He has also worked in the private sector with major law and investment firms.

In addition, Andrew Quinn will serve as special assistant to the president for international trade, investment, and development. Quinn previously served as deputy assistant U.S. trade representative and worked on a number of trade negotiations and agreements, principally with countries in Asia and the Western Hemisphere. He has also served on the National Security Council as director for Asian economic affairs, at a number of U.S. embassies abroad as a member of the Senior Foreign Service, and as a legislative assistant for trade and foreign affairs in the Senate.

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