WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is considering replacing Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, U.S. media reported Friday, in a move that could affect U.S. trade policy toward major partners such as Japan, China and the European Union.
Trump wants to replace Ross “by the end of the year,” with Linda McMahon, head of the Small Business Administration, the likely successor, U.S. business news network CNBC said, quoting three people familiar with the matter.
Politico reported that Ross’ fate depends on whether the Democratic Party will use its new majority in the House of Representatives to investigate his finances and questions surrounding his divestiture of assets.
“No decisions have been made but Trump has been critical of Ross, saying that the 80-year-old commerce secretary has ‘lost a step,’ ” it said.
McMahon, a former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, is viewed inside the White House as “largely pro-free trade and less friendly to tariffs than Ross,” according to Politico.
McMahon has told Trump’s closest advisers that she is likely to take the job if she is offered it, CNBC said.
Trump is also considering Ray Washburne, whom he appointed as president of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation last year, it said, citing one source.
Under Trump’s instruction, Ross has been investigating imports of automobiles and automotive parts to determine their effects on U.S. national security, similar to the logic the president used before imposing global tariffs on steel and aluminum imports in March.
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’ possible dismissal came to light two days after Trump ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions in what may be a series of high-profile personnel changes in the administration after the Republican Party ceded its House majority in Tuesday’s midterm elections.
Speculation is swirling that Trump may also replace Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.