Trump Offers No Tariff Exemptions In Conversations With World Leaders: Ross

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Update: some further soundbites from Ross as he makes the Sunday morning TV shows:


Finally, regarding Gary Cohn’s future, Ross said that the former Goldman COO is not leaving the administration after failing to stop President Donald Trump from imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

“The president likes to hear every side of every argument,” Ross said on ABC. “That way he’s sure he’s gotten all points of view. We’ve had lively discussion, but Gary Cohn, as far as I know, is certainly not going to walk out.”

As for potential retaliation, while some was expected, Ross said it would be trivial: “As to the idea of retaliation, sure they may well be some sort of retaliation, but the amounts that they’re talking about are also pretty trivial.”

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US allies and trade partners – especially Canada, Japan and the EU – who were hoping that they would be exempt from Trump’s steel and aluminum import tariffs may be set for disappointment.

Speaking on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that Trump has spoken to world leaders about his planned tariff hikes on steel and aluminum and is not considering any exemptions to the measure.

“I know he’s had conversations with a number of the world leaders,” Ross said according to Reuters, adding that “the decision obviously is his, but as of the moment as far as I know he’s talking about a fairly broad brush. I have not heard him describe particular exemptions just yet.”

Echoing his CNBC comments from Friday, Ross also played down the possible effects of the proposed tariffs on the U.S. economy: he said the total amount of tariffs the U.S. government is proposing is about $9 billion a year, a fraction of 1% of the economy.

“So the notion that it would destroy a lot of jobs, raise prices, disrupt things, is wrong,” Ross said; confirming a recent analysis from Barclays according to which the adverse impact from the tariffs would be negligible.

Ross also dismissed European Union threats of retaliatory tariffs on flagship American products including Harley Davidson motorcycles, bourbon and Levi’s jeans as trivial and a “rounding error.” The commerce secretary said the Europeans were discussing a “pretty trivial amount of retaliatory tariffs, adding up to some $3 billion of goods.”In our size economy that’s a tiny, tiny fraction of 1 percent,” Ross said. “So while it might affect an individual producer for a little while overall, it’s not going to be much more than a rounding error.”

On Saturday, Trump also threatened European automakers with a tax on imports if the European Union retaliates.

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Separately, speaking on CNN’s State of the Union, White House trade advisor Peter Navarro whose recent promotion presaged last week’s tariff announcement, repeated that Trump’s decision to place steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports is for both national and economic security: “This is an action basically to protect our national security and economic security.”

Navarro – a long term China trade hawk – argued that Beijing is the source of the problem despite its low place on the list of exporters. The White House advisor said China has “tremendous overcapacity” that allows it to flood the market, which “ripples down.”

As such, the tariffs are intended to support American-made products, although as we showed previously, China is not even in the top 10 nations from which the US imports steel.

“We can’t have a country that can defend itself and prosper without an aluminum and steel industry,” Navarro said.

Navarro also dodged a question about whether the United States will ultimately leave the World Trade Organization. Telling CNN’s Jake Tapper that it was “a provocative question”, Navarro said that the WTO is a big part of the problem when it comes to trade.

“A lot of the problem has been the World Trade Organization, which is over 160 countries, and a lot of them simply don’t like us and so we don’t get good results there,” Navarro said, and instead countered that while the U.S. is a free trader, it is also a fair trader, echoing a line from the president: “we are fair and reciprocal traders and the World Trade Organization I think needs to change with the times.”

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It is unlikely that either Ross’ or Navarro’s comments will mitigate an increasingly angry foreign response to what most now acknowledge is the start of global trade wars.