WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) — Wilbur Ross, the billionaire investor nominated by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump as Commerce Secretary, signaled that a top focus for the ministry will be to redefine trade relationships with its major trading partners.
“NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) is logically the first thing for us to deal with,” said Ross in testimony on Wednesday before the Senate Commerce Committee, which will vote on his nomination.
“We ought to solidify relationships in the best way we can, in our own territory before we go off to other jurisdictions,” the billionaire added.
During the campaign trail, the President-elect has promised to renegotiate the NAFTA and threatened to levy hefty tariffs on Mexico.
In his testimony, Ross noted that tariffs play a role both as a negotiating tool and a tool “to punish offenders who don’t play by the rules” .
He reiterated his intention that U.S. would negotiate bilateral agreements instead of multilateral ones, because it’s less likely to “get to a sensible result” from multilateral negotiations.
The billionaire also stated his objection to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, saying that it was “not consistent with what had been advertised.”
International institutions, such as World Bank and International Monetary Fund, have warned that the inward-looking policy and protectionism could be a threat to global growth.
As one of the advisors to Trump on economic issues, Ross, together with Peter Navarro, Trump’s nominee to head his newly created National Trade Council, laid out several plans to boost the U.S. growth, which include relaxing regulations, reforming energy policy and boosting infrastructure.
Ross reiterated these plans in his testimony, and said that these measures could promote the U.S. as a truly competitive economy.
However, economists have warned that these plans, together with possible tax reforms, could push up inflation, widen fiscal deficits, and sacrifice U.S. longer-term growth.