During an interview on Maria Bartiromo’s Fox Business show on Thursday, commerce secretary Wilbur Ross downplayed the impact Trump’s trade war will have on the American economy by arguing that even a $50 billion hit is “not something that’s going to be cataclysmic.”
Ross made that comment in response to a question from Bartiromo about the impact a trade war could have on the prices consumers pay for everyday goods.
“Look, if these tariffs cut into margins, companies are just going to pass that on, and that means raising prices, and that means higher prices for all sorts of stuff for American people, for American consumers, and that’s going to mean inflation,” Bartiromo said. “So do you worry that all of this, while good-intentioned, is gonna actually impact the economy negatively and wipe away what you’ve been able to achieve from the tax cuts and the rollback on regulations?”
Ross indicated he isn’t worried.
“Well, let’s put it into arithmetic perspective,” he said. “25 percent on $200 billion, if it comes to pass, is $50 billion a year. $50 billion on an $18 trillion economy is three-tenths of one percent. It’s not something that’s going to be cataclysmic.”
“Well, it could be cataclysmic for some companies,” Bartiromo replied.
The Trump administration is considering “increasing the rate of proposed tariffs to 25% on an additional $200 billion worth of goods from China,” according to CNN. A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry vowed that “if the U.S. take measures to further escalate the situation we will surely take countermeasures to firmly uphold our legitimate rights and interests.”
Trump has alternated between expressing confidence that American farmers who are hardest hit by tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods will endure some short-term pain for him, and pushing a $12 billion bailout for farmers to mitigate that pain.
Ross’ talking point echoes what he said after Trump unexpectedly announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports during a White House meeting with aluminum and steel executives in early March.
During a CNBC interview held days later, Ross dismissed concerns Trump’s tariffs would result in increased prices, arguing that a penny here and a dollar there “doesn’t mean anything” to people.
While waving cans of soup and Coke, Ross said “Coca-Cola has 3 cents worth of aluminum in it, so if that goes up 10 percent, that’s 3/10 of a cent. I just paid $1.49 for this can of Coke.”
“It doesn’t mean anything,” Ross, who was worth $2.9 billion in 2016, summed up. “So all this hysteria is a lot to do about nothing.”
Both then and now, Ross’ spin is odd, given that the Trump administration spent months relentlessly attacking House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for characterizing the bonuses that some workers received as a result of the Republican tax cut bill as “crumbs.”