Wilbur Ross promised Wednesday that as Commerce secretary he would encourage trade on conditions that were favorable to U.S. interests.
Those who violate trade rules, he said during his confirmation hearing, should be "severely punished." More specifically, he said dumping of steel and aluminum will be a key focus, with tariffs slapped on violators. He also expressed opinion on various trade deals in which the U.S. has entered, specifically saying that changing the North American Free Trade Agreement is "the first thing for us to deal with."
"I think that we cannot afford trade that is inherently bad for American workers and American businesses," he said, adding that the U.S. "can compete very effectively if it's a fair fight."
"I think tariffs play a role both as a negotiating tool and if necessary to push offenders who don't play by the rules," he added.
Addressing specific situations, Ross said he supported the basic principle of the Trans-Pacific Partnership — which President-elect Donald Trump has denounced in strong terms — but changed his mind as he sifted through the agreement.
"As I delved into the thousands of pages of documents, I came across some things that I felt were not consistent with what had been advertised," he said. One specific area he cited was a provision that 60 percent of the contents of a car can come from outside the TPP realm, but can still receive protection under the agreement.