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Trump’s Commerce Pick To Keep Millions In Chinese Gov-Backed Investments

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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter
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President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, Jr., reportedly plans to keep millions of dollars in investments tied to private offshore companies and the Chinese government.

Ross, a 79-year-old billionaire, is Trump’s choice for Commerce Secretary and active manager of the private-equity firm W.L. Ross & Co. In addition to his role at W.L. Ross & Co., he holds positions at 22 separate business entities.

The business mogul pledged in late January that, if confirmed, he would sell his stake in his private-equity company and step down from his positions on various corporate boards. The billionaire investor also pledged to sell nearly $50 million in shares in the parent company of his firm, and to divest up to $209 million to avoid any allegations of conflicts-of-interest.

Despite these early promises, Ross does not plan to divest all of his investments. He reportedly plans to keep investments in 11 entities, including an oil-tanker company, that would likely be affected by policies he would implement as Commerce Secretary, The Wall Street Journal reports. These entities include interests in private companies located in the Cayman Islands and a joint investment with a fund backed by the Chinese government.

Ross’s firm participated in a joint-investment venture with the Chinese government’s wealth fund, Diamond S Shipping Group Inc., in 2011. Diamond S Shipping Group , one of the world’s largest owners of oil-tankers, was still publicly listed as a co-investor in 2014. The company owns some 33 oil-tankers. A key problem for regulators is that the firm does not publicly list all of its investors.

As Commerce Secretary, negotiating with China would be a chief responsibility of Ross, and his ties to the Chinese government have some eyebrows raised.

One of the primary concerns of regulators is that, as it stands, there is little publicly available information regarding the entities in which Ross plans to keep his investments. This could, in turn, make it difficult for federal regulators to oversee what effect Ross’s policy initiatives have on his investments, the Journal reports.

A spokesperson attempted to assure reporters there would be no conflicts of interest regarding these firms and Ross’s decision-making capabilities, saying “he will faithfully execute the law and the commitments in his ethics agreement, and will follow the advice of the department’s ethics officials.”

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