Few people embody Donald Trump’s vision of fair trade more than Dan DiMicco.

The 66-year-old former chief executive officer of steelmaker Nucor Corp. (IW 500/68) learned to fight for his company and his industry by going after his foreign competitors in trade cases. Moving beyond the pro-free trade vision of Nucor’s founder, DiMicco led an industry push that eventually persuaded the U.S. government to pile on tariffs as high as 500% on Chinese steelmakers.

“Nucor throughout its history, never really got into the trade issues,” DiMicco, who’s heading the Trump transition team’s efforts to reshape the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, said in an August interview. “As we got bigger as a company, we found out we didn’t really have a choice but to get involved.”

While his current role is advisory, DiMicco’s experience combating cheap imports from China to Brazil could make him a candidate to head the USTR, according to trade lawyers and steel industry representatives. The trade representative will serve as chief negotiator and principal adviser to a president who made protectionist rhetoric central to his campaign to bring back jobs to rust-belt states, working alongside billionaire steel investor Wilbur Ross as secretary of commerce.

Shares of American steel producers have surged this year alongside a rapid recovery in domestic prices of the metal as demand increased. The stocks have also gained as the U.S. handed out punishments for dumping and unfair subsidies -- including massive duties on Chinese cold-rolled steel used in autos and appliances.

Optimism in the industry, which intensified after Trump’s surprise election win, is a far cry from the previous two years, when a slowdown in China resulted in a flood of exports, plummeting prices and market distress for producers.

While details of Trump’s trade policies haven’t been released, he has promised to levy “every lawful presidential power to remedy trade disputes if China does not stop its illegal activities.” He vowed to use local steel for infrastructure projects and create U.S. jobs and wages through negotiation of fair trade deals.

DiMicco joined Trump’s campaign in the spring as senior trade adviser as it became clear the real-estate billionaire would be the Republican Party nominee. Since then, he’s been a steadfast proponent of Trump’s trade platform, maintaining a hard line against China, which he accused in August of “extreme protectionism at home and deadly predatory pricing around the world.”

Neither the Trump transition team nor DiMicco responded to requests for comment after the election. A fax seeking comment from China’s Commerce Ministry wasn’t returned.

The plain-spoken metallurgist who worked his way up from the plant floor took Nucor’s reigns in September 2000, as its shares approached an eight-year low. Over the next 12 years he completed more than 50 acquisitions and the Charlotte, N.C.-based producer’s shares quintupled in value.

But it was his role in laying the groundwork for securing huge penalties against Chinese imports that makes him a unique candidate to be Trump’s top trade voice and bring his experience to other industries.