TRUMP SPECIAL: New US administration will feature familiar faces

US president-elect Donald Trump’s administration seems likely be loaded with business leaders, several of whom have close affiliations with the metals and scrap sectors.

Wilbur Ross, commerce secretary
Steel industry veteran Wilbur Ross was nominated to be Secretary of Commerce. He founded private equity firm WL Ross & Co and has been involved in the restructuring of more than $200 billion-worth of defaulted companies’ assets around the world.

The Trump administration intends to bring steel and manufacturing jobs back to the USA by throwing out or renegotiating multinational free-trade deals, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Trump has described Ross as a “champion” of American manufacturing. “Most importantly, he is one of the greatest negotiators I have ever met,” Trump said.

Ross formed International Steel Group (ISG) in 2002 by consolidating former steel behemoths LTV Steel and Bethlehem Steel, as well as Weirton Steel, Acme Steel, Georgetown Steel and the plate operations of US Steel.

ISG was purchased in 2004 for more than $4 billion by what is now the world’s largest steelmaker, ArcelorMittal.

Robert Lighthizer, United States Trade Representative
Trade attorney Robert Lighthizer has been nominated to serve as the next US Trade Representative (USTR), in which position he would be the president’s chief negotiator, adviser and spokesman on trade issues.

Lighthizer is a partner in the international trade practice at Washington-based law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP & Affiliates, a role that has seen him represent US Steel in anti-dumping and countervailing duty petitions.

An early Trump supporter and a trade “hawk”, Lighthizer has said that the Republican Party’s “blind faith” in free trade was misplaced, especially with regard to China.

“Is free trade really making global markets more efficient? Or is it simply strengthening our adversaries and creating a world where countries who abuse the system, such as China, are on the road to economic and military dominance?” Lighthizer wrote in a letter to The Washington Times in 2011.

Peter Navarro, National Trade Council
Peter Navarro has been nominated to head the newly created White House National Trade Council. He would also serve the president-elect as director of trade and industrial policy.

Navarro will coordinate with other agencies and advise Trump on “innovative strategies in trade negotiations”, according to a press release from the president-elect’s transition team on December 21 last year.

Navarro, professor of economics and public policy at the University of California at Irvine, is a hawk on trade with China. He blames Beijing’s “mercantilist” trade policies and “unfair trade practices” for slow gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the USA.

Navarro is also the author of the book The Coming China Wars and director of the film Death by China, which Trump has praised as “right on”. Navarro has also criticised the US Treasury Department for not singling out China for its alleged manipulation of the yuan.

Rolf Lundberg, Buy American, Hire American project
Washington veteran Rolf Lundberg has been put forward to assume the role of deputy director of the National Trade Council’s “Buy American, Hire American” project.

Trump has pledged to spend as much as $1 trillion to repair US infrastructure. In steel, “Buy American” refers to government-funded projects that require steel to be melted and poured in the USA.

Lundberg’s efforts will focus on “policies to reverse the economic injustice of offshoring”, Trump’s transition team said.

He was previously senior vp for Congressional and public affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce.

Carl Icahn, special adviser
Wall Street investor Carl Icahn has been appointed a special adviser who will offer suggestions on how to ease regulations so that companies can focus on business.

“Under president [Barack] Obama, America’s business owners have been crippled by more than $1 trillion in new regulations and more than 750 billion hours dealing with paperwork,” Icahn has said.

“It’s time to break free of excessive regulation and let our entrepreneurs do what they do best: create jobs and support communities. Regulatory reform will be a critical component of making America work again,” he added.

Trump’s announcement indicated that Icahn is equipped for the position due to his success as a businessman and investor. “Icahn will be a leader in helping American entrepreneurs shed job-killing regulations that stifle economic growth,” it said.

Icahn has held positions in many metals, recycling, mining and automotive companies, including PSC Metals.

Icahn Enterprises’ latest annual report says that one of Icahn’s core strengths is “managing complex legal, regulatory or financial issues, which may include bankruptcy or insolvency, environmental, zoning, permitting and licensing issues”.