North Carolina’s Dan DiMicco spent nearly the entire day at Trump Tower in New York on Thursday.
DiMicco, the former chief executive of Nucor Corp., America’s largest steel company, is overseeing President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team’s work on the U.S. Trade Representative’s post. DiMicco is rumored to be among those under consideration for the job, but it was unclear whether that’s what Thursday’s meeting is about. He arrived unaccompanied around 11 a.m. this morning without speaking to reporters camped inside Trump Tower. He departed at 5:52 p.m. Trump left for a rally in Hershey, Pa., at about 4:30 p.m.
As an adviser, DiMicco’s beliefs on trade appear in sync with the president-elect’s. DiMicco wrote a book last year, “American Made: Why Making Things Will Return Us to Greatness.”
A Waxhaw, N.C., resident, DiMicco is regarded as a critic of free-trade policies, which he maintains has cost America millions of manufacturing jobs and shrunk the middle class. He’s been critical of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which Trump opposes.
“The concept of free trade may be great in the halls of academia, but it is destructive when used in the real world of cheaters,” DiMicco wrote in a letter published by The Wall Street Journal in April.
He argues that America is losing a trade war to China. As Nucor’s chief executive, DiMicco sponsored town hall meetings across the country arguing that inexpensive Chinese imports were hurting American manufacturers.
“As long as we continue to be namby-pamby, weak-kneed negotiators, the Chinese will continue to cheat,” DiMicco told The Huffington Post in June. “History has shown us again and again that if you appease bad behavior, you get more of it, not less, and it can lead to something catastrophic. Our very existence gets threatened.”
Trump “is going to negotiate…to get back free trade as being the way things are really done in the global trading community – as opposed to succumbing to the thing free trade was designed to eliminate, which is massive trade mercantilism, state-owned enterprises and government ownership of the economy,” DiMicco told The Charlotte Observer in June.
Alan Tonelson, author of RealityCheck, a blog about trade issues, said DiMicco would be a valuable asset to a Trump White House.
“I think he would be a tremendously valuable addition,” Tonelson said. “What he would bring to the Trump presidency would be what I consider a very insightful view of the fundamental problems that have been plaguing U.S. trade for so many years. He would also bring very impressive ties to the American business community at a very high level, just because of his long experience of running a very successful company in a very successful way.”
But Gary Hufbauer, a fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, questions DiMicco’s trade expertise beyond steel.
“He certainly knows the steel trade issues – he doesn’t like import competition from China and Korea and Japan,” said Hufbauer, who served as deputy assistant secretary international trade and investment policy in the Treasury Department from 1977 to 1979. “I don’t think you can say he’s broadly familiar with all the intricacies of U.S. trade law.”
President John F. Kennedy led DiMicco to steel. Growing up in Mount Kisco, N.Y., DiMicco was enthralled by Kennedy’s vow to place a man on the moon by 1970. Good at math and science courses in high school, DiMicco envisioned working for NASA.
When he entered Brown University, he was interested in electrical engineering.
“Electrical engineering and myself did not take,” DiMicco told the Charlotte Business Journal in 2009. “So when I was looking for another engineering curriculum to get into, and still thinking that someday I might work at NASA or the space program, I thought materials science and metallurgical engineering would be a good place to go.”
DiMicco graduated from Brown in 1972 with a bachelor degree in engineering, metallurgy and materials science and applied to business and engineering graduate schools.
“So when I got the acceptance letters from the business schools and the engineering schools, I look at ‘em and the business schools were very happy to loan me $5,000 a year to go there and the engineering schools were very happy to give me free tuition and a stipend of $330 a month,” he told the Business Journal. “I said ‘decision made.’ ”
He earned his master’s degree in metallurgy and materials science from the University of Pennsylvania in 1975.
He joined the Nucor Corp. in 1982 as a plant metallurgist and manager of quality control at Nucor Steel’s operation in Plymouth, Utah. He became general manager of Nucor-Yamato joint venture in Blytheville, Ark., in March 1991 and rose to vice president in January 1992.
He was promoted to executive vice president of Nucor Corp. in September 1999 and became the corporation’s president and CEO in 2000. DiMicco was elected vice chairman of the board of directors in 2000 and chairman of the board in 2006.
He was executive chairman from January 2013 to January 2014 and is currently chairman emeritus. DiMicco was appointed to the United States Manufacturing Council in 2008 by then U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez.
DiMicco built Nucor Corp. into the nation’s largest steel company and won accolades for his stewardship. In 2005, BusinessWeek proclaimed Nucor as the nation’s leading company, based on sales, growth and return on investment.
Under his leadership, Nucor completed more than 50 acquisitions between September 2000 and the end of 2012 for a total investment of $6.5 billion, according to DiMicco’s website.