- Title: U.S. Commerce nominee Ross says NAFTA is Trump's first trade priority
- Date: 18th January 2017
- Summary: WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES (JANUARY 18, 2017) (UNRESTRICTED POOL) VARIOUS OF U.S. COMMERCE SECRETARY NOMINEE WILBUR ROSS AT HIS CONFIRMATION HEARING (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. COMMERCE SECRETARY NOMINEE WILBUR ROSS, SAYING: "The president-elect has made no secret in his public remarks nor have I in earlier remarks during the campaign that NAFTA is logically the first thing for us to deal with. We ought to solidify relationships in the best way we can in our own territory before we go off to other jurisdictions. So I think that should be and hopefully will be, if I'm confirmed, a very, very early topic in this administration." SIDE VIEW OF CONFIRMATION HEARING VARIOUS OF PROTESTERS BEING ESCORTED OUT OF CONFIRMATION HEARING (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. COMMERCE SECRETARY NOMINEE WILBUR ROSS, SAYING: "That was not part of my prepared remarks." (SOUNDBITE) (English) JOHN THUNE, CHAIRMAN OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION, SAYING: "And China?" (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. COMMERCE SECRETARY NOMINEE WILBUR ROSS, SAYING: "China is the most protectionist country of very large countries. They have both very high tariff barriers and very high non-tariff trade barriers to commerce. So they talk much more about free trade than they actually practice. We would like to the levelize that playing field and bring the realities a bit closer to the rhetoric." SENATOR ROY BLUNT OF MISSOURI ASKING QUESTION (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. COMMERCE SECRETARY NOMINEE WILBUR ROSS, SAYING: "I think one of the things that we do need very careful attention to more tariff activity is the anti-dumping requirements that we should impose on the steel industry and on the aluminum industry as well." SENATOR RON JOHNSON OF WISCONSIN ASKING QUESTION (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. COMMERCE SECRETARY NOMINEE WILBUR ROSS, SAYING: "Well I think we can certainly get north of 3 percent growth if we do all the elements of the president's program." JOHNSON ASKING QUESTION (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. COMMERCE SECRETARY NOMINEE WILBUR ROSS, SAYING: "The first thing we have to do is to deal with the unfair, both tariff and non-tariff trade barriers, that other countries impose on us. It's a little weird that we have very low tariffs and China has very high tariffs. That seems to me to be a bit of an imbalance and it's one thing to talk about free trade, we would like to have our trading partners also practice free trade and do it in a more balanced manner than has been done at present. So I think a lot of what we need is the elimination of inappropriate and in most cases, improper trade barriers to us. I think American ingenuity, American management and American labor can compete very, very effectively if it's a fair fight. In a lot of cases it is not a fair fight." SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL OF WASHINGTON AND SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR OF MINNESOTA (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. COMMERCE SECRETARY NOMINEE WILBUR ROSS, SAYING: "I am not anti-trade, I am pro-trade, but I'm pro-sensible trade not pro-trade that is to the disadvantage of the American worker and the American manufacturing community. I think we should provide access to our markets to those countries who play fair, play by the rules and give everybody a fair chance to compete. Those who do not should not get away with it. They should be punished and severely." WIDE OF ROSS SITTING
- Embargoed: 1st February 2017 18:01
- Keywords: Wilbur Ross commerce Secretary of Commerce senate Trump administration Trump
- Location: WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES
- City: WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES
- Country: USA
- Topics: Government/Politics,Elections/Voting
- Reuters ID: LVA0015ZM018N
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico will be the Trump administration's first trade priority, U.S. Commerce Secretary nominee Wilbur Ross said on Wednesday (January 18) at his confirmation hearing.
The 79-year-old billionaire investor also told the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that China was the "most protectionist" country among large economies.
He did not discuss Trump's threats to levy punitive tariffs on Chinese goods imported into the United States but said countries that fail to provide a fair trading field should be "severely punished."
Trump has criticized NAFTA and China's trade practices, accusing both of causing millions of manufacturing job losses in the United States. He has pledged to renegotiate NAFTA to be more favorable to U.S. manufacturers or leave the 23-year-old trade pact.
"NAFTA is logically is the first thing for us to deal with," Ross said. "We ought to solidify relationships in the best way we can in our territory before we go off to other jurisdictions. That should be, and hopefully will be if I'm confirmed, a very early topic in this administration."
The Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper reported on Wednesday that Ross has informed Canadian officials that a formal request for negotiations will be sent within days of Trump's inauguration on Friday, with rules of origin a priority.
Ross said that, working in concert with the U.S. Trade Representative and Trump's new White House International Trade Council, he will seek to reduce China's high tariff and non-tariff barriers to commerce.
He added that Chinese officials "talk much more about free trade than they actually practice. We would like levelize that playing field and bring the realities a bit closer to the rhetoric."
The former steel magnate, who will give up his board seat at the world's largest producer, ArcelorMittal, said China's excess steel and aluminum capacity was a chronic problem that contributed to the dumping of goods below cost in the United States.
"Where we do need very careful attention to more tariff activity is the anti-dumping requirements that we should impose on the steel industry and the aluminum industry as well," he said.
Ross said it was possible for the U.S. economy to grow faster than the Obama administration. It could achieve about 3 percent growth by adopting Trump's proposals to roll back some business regulations, expand domestic energy production, reduce U.S. trade deficits and rebuild crumbling domestic infrastructure, he said.
Ross also said more wireless telecommunications spectrum, sales of which are managed by the Commerce Department, was needed by the private sector. He pledged to press government and military agencies that control it to release what they do not need.
"I am not anti-trade. I am pro-trade," Ross said. "But I am pro-sensible trade, not trade that is to the disadvantage of the American worker and to the American manufacturing community."
Ross disclosed on Tuesday that he would sell investments valued at up to about $300 million, including his stake in his private equity firm, in order to avoid conflicts of interest as commerce secretary, a position with responsibilities ranging from trade enforcement and economic data publication to telecommunications auctions and weather forecasting.
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