Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross promised Friday he will take a proactive view on trade, with an emphasis on making sure the U.S. is getting good deals on the international stage.
In his first interview since being confirmed, the billionaire venture capitalist told CNBC that promoting employment and exports will be a primary focus.
"We'll be aggressive on trade because we know that deals that have been made historically have resulted in the great loss of manufacturing jobs, a great amount of closed manufacturing businesses," he said. "We don't want that to continue."
At the top of the list of priorities will be renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada to terms more favorable to the U.S.
"The first on our agenda is NAFTA because we think it makes sense to solidify your own neighborhood first," he said.
Making sure other countries follow the terms of trade deals also will be a major task for him as the 79-year-old businessman gets further into the job.
"In the next week or so you're going to start to see a lot more out of us on enforcement," Ross said. "I think it's ridiculous to go to all the trouble to bring a trade case, win it and not enforce it against the other party. We will be a very strong enforcer of it."
He also promised a vigorous examination of regulations and in fact said business surveys also have begun to find how the administration can roll back job-killing rules.
"Many of these were put in by executive orders and agency rules and those wouldn't require acts of Congress" to repeal, he said. "So we are up to our eyeballs to try to make sure we identify all of the problems."