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Ross to be Confirmed as Commerce Head  02/27 05:43

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross is headed toward 
confirmation as Commerce secretary in President Donald Trump's administration.

   The Senate is set to vote on Ross' nomination Monday evening. Ross easily 
cleared the Senate Commerce Committee and a procedural vote by the full Senate.

   Ross' confirmation has gone much smoother than other Trump nominees' 
approval. Former Commerce secretaries have praised him, including one who 
served under former President Barack Obama.

   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.

   "I believe his extensive management experience in the private sector, and 
his understanding of the challenges faced by workers and businesses alike, will 
equip him well for the job of leading the Department of Commerce," said Sen. 
John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Commerce Committee.

   Breaking with Republican orthodoxy, Ross said the Trump administration will 
work quickly to re-do the North American Free Trade Agreement, a massive trade 
pact with Canada and Mexico that has boosted trade but still stings laid-off 
workers across the Midwest.

   Ross said all free trade agreements should be systematically re-opened every 
few years to make sure they are working in the best interests of the U.S.

   Ross said he is pro-free trade but noted his close relationship with the 
United Steelworkers union as proof that he will fight to protect American jobs. 
The union has endorsed him.

   NAFTA was negotiated and signed by President Bill Clinton, with broad 
support among Republicans in Congress.

   Worth an estimated $2.9 billion, Ross has extensive business ties around the 
globe. In 2000, he founded WL Ross & Co., a private equity firm. As part of his 
ethics agreement, Ross will divest from the firm, if confirmed.

   The commerce secretary has several roles in promoting American business 
interests in the U.S. and abroad. The department handles trade issues, working 
to attract foreign investment to the U.S. The department also oversees agencies 
that manage fisheries, weather forecasting and the Census Bureau, which will 
conduct a count in 2020.

   Ross said he has experience at that agency; he was a census-taker while he 
attended business school.


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