Donald Trump has picked Andrew Liveris, the chief executive of Dow Chemical, to lead his advisory council on manufacturing, giving him a connection to the new administration at a time when he is trying to secure approvals for a complex $130bn merger with DuPont.
Mr Liveris previously served in a similar advisory role for President Barack Obama.
At a rally in an arena in Michigan on Friday evening, Mr Trump introduced Mr Liveris and said he was “committed to returning jobs to the United States of America”.
Mr Liveris, an Australian who lives in the US, said Mr Trump was “paving the way with your administration, with your policies, to make it easier to do business in this country: not a red tape country but a red carpet country for American businesses.”
Earlier in the day, Dow announced that it would invest in a new innovation centre in Michigan that would support 200 jobs in research and development: 100 new jobs and 100 relocated from other Dow facilities around the world.
In June, Dow said it was cutting about 2,500 jobs worldwide, or about 4 per cent of its global workforce, including the closure of a silicones plant in North Carolina, to take advantage of the cost reductions made possible by taking full ownership of its Dow Corning joint venture.
The job cuts are separate from any further reductions that could follow the merger with DuPont. That deal is set to create a group with a market capitalisation of about $130bn, which is then intended to be split into three more focused companies.
The merger is reaching a critical stage, with the two companies hoping for approvals from competition authorities in what they have called the “big four” jurisdictions — the US, the EU, China and Brazil — in the first quarter of next year.
The merger has sparked complaints from farming groups and regions, who are concerned about the potential reduction in competition that the DowDuPont merger and other deals could create in agricultural chemicals, biotechnology and seeds.
The US National Farmers Union in May signed a letter to the Department of Justice, calling for it to challenge the DowDuPont merger and warning that it “would likely curtail innovation, raise prices, and reduce cultivation choices for farmers, consumers and the food system”.
Dow has argued that the deal would actually strengthen competition, by creating a seeds and biotechnology business that would be more financially viable than its own operations would be on their own.
Mr Liveris’ position advising Mr Trump follows his role as co-chair of Mr Obama’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership from 2011-14, when he made recommendations including greater government support for manufacturing innovation.
However at a Fortune conference in May, Mr Liveris complained that the Obama administration had imposed a “regulatory burden like no other administration we have seen for decades”.
He told the same conference that as an Australian he could not vote, but given the choice between Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton: “I don’t think it really matters at the end of the day which of these two get there.”
Dow has had ties to Mrs Clinton through the charitable work of her husband, former president Bill Clinton. It has given between $1m and $5m to the Clinton Foundation, making it one of the charity’s leading corporate supporters.
Mr Liveris was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper in March as having said the US was facing “the Kardashian presidency”.
He added that Mr Trump was “an incredible marketer of the fantasy of what could be”.
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