WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate on Monday confirmed Wilbur Ross, a billionaire private equity investor with business ties to Japan, as commerce secretary.
Ross will assist President Donald Trump’s efforts to reduce the trade deficit through increased exports and to boost investment — and increase employment — in the United States with tax cuts, deregulation and other incentives.
The upper chamber of Congress approved the nomination in a 72-27 vote.
Ross is known in Japan for his takeover and restructuring of Kofuku Bank, an Osaka-based regional bank that went under in 1999, among other investments in Japanese companies.
He also served as chairman of the Japan Society, a New York-based nonprofit organization that promotes relations between Japan and the United States.
Ross is expected to take part in a high-level Japan-U.S. economic dialogue for economic and trade policy coordination that the two governments plan to start as early as April.
The new commerce chief, however, may take a tough stance toward Japan, with which the United States had its second-largest trade deficit after China last year.
In his Senate confirmation hearing last month, Ross urged Toyota Motor Corp. and other manufacturers to build more plants in the United States as part of efforts to create more jobs and reduce the U.S. trade deficit.
He also accused China of erecting “very high” tariff and nontariff trade barriers, saying the country is “the most protectionist country” among large economies.