Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: New Mexican President Wants To Work Out NAFTA Issues "Quickly"


Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross joins FBN's Maria Bartiromo to discuss the Trump administration's preliminary agreement with the European Union and efforts to reach a trade deal with Mexico and China. Ross said the administration expects to get something worked out on both fronts in the next few months.

"The new president [of Mexico] very quickly appointed the team that will do the trade negotiations for him, has made very clear he wants to get a deal done and he did all this without even waiting for his inauguration,” Ross told FOX Business host Maria Bartiromo on 'Mornings with Maria'. "He will be inaugurated on the first of December and it looks pretty clear that his goal would be to try to get something resolved between the United States and Mexico prior to even his inauguration."

MARIA BARTIROMO, FBN ANCHOR: Joining us right now to weigh in from Washington is Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Mr. Secretary, it's good to see you this morning. Thanks so much for joining us.

WILBUR ROSS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: Thank you for having me on, Maria.

BARTIROMO: Well, this was a big deal yesterday with the president and -- and Mr. Juncker. Can you go through what was -- what was agreed upon?

ROSS: Surely.

The objectives of a new trade negotiation have been very firmly set. Zero -- we're going towards zero tariffs, zero non-tariff trade barriers, zero subsidies. So that should really level the playing field and enable American companies to be fully competitive and get the kind of market access that they need.

Meanwhile, the steel and aluminum tariffs stay in place. We will continue pursuing our investigation of the automotive 232 and hopefully these negotiations will be completed fairly quickly so that we can get to the stable situation.

BARTIROMO: So is the plan to eventually do away with the aluminum and steel tariffs or the auto tariffs? I mean even on light trucks, the U.S. charges, what, 25 percent, right?

ROSS: Well, you notice on -- on light trucks the -- there was an exception for automotive products. It said we'd work towards zero tariffs on non-automotive industrial products. Steel and aluminum, there's no attention to abandon those industries. So the president is very happy with the progress they have made in opening new facilities. I'm joining them today as we go out to visit one that had just recently been reopened. He's not going to do anything to destroy steel and aluminum for their newfound substance.

BARTIROMO: Was there a timeline discussed, secretary, in terms of when we might see actual clarity on what the trade deal will look like between the U.S. and the E.U.?

ROSS: There's no precise timetable set because that's not a meaningful thing. But the president made it very clear he is not going to sit around for the normal two, three years to get a trade deal done. Since we've got the broad principles agreed, it now should be more filling in the blanks than starting from ground zero.

BARTIROMO: And what do you think about these tariffs hitting Detroit. General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler all yesterday lowered guidance. Adjusting their full year outlooks as they revealed lower than expected second quarter earnings, all of which were impacted by the rising cost of steel and aluminum.

So, Mr. Secretary, will the president's negotiations with the E.U. reverse what's gone on with the automakers? We are already seeing that they're expecting this to impact their business.

ROSS: Well, I have said before, the impact of steel and aluminum on the auto industry's cost is really fairly minor. It's about 1 percent on the cost of the vehicle. So to the degree that that might be passed along, that's possible.

But the offsetting thing is what you're seeing in employment figures. Record low unemployment. More jobs available than there are people available to fill them for the first time ever. Record low unemployment for African-Americans, for Hispanics, for women, for young people. I mean the economy is booming and that's what's really important.

The other important thing, though, is the president has made clear he's not going to abandon the industries that he's just helped to revitalize.


What's the next priority then, Wilbur? We've been talking a lot about the potential for a deal with Mexico. Is that the priority now as you continue to work with the E.U.?

ROSS: Well, we're working on a lot of different fronts all at the same time and that shows you the speed and the breadth of the president's scope of these trade issues. We have to get them fixed in a fairly short period of time. They've gone on too long unchecked by prior administrations.

As to Mexico, the new president very quickly appointed the team that will do the trade negotiations for him and has made very clear he wants to get a deal done. And he did all this without even waiting for his inauguration. He'll be inaugurated on the first of December and it looks pretty clear that his goal would be to try to get something resolved between the United States and Mexico prior to even his inauguration.

BARTIROMO: So you think -- do you -- is it fair to say then the change in leadership in Mexico also was very positive towards better relations with the U.S.?

ROSS: Well, potentially so. It certainly has made us all feel a lot better than we did during some of the campaign rhetoric. We're --

BARTIROMO: And you think that Canada will be close behind once you do do a deal -- a new NAFTA deal with Mexico?

ROSS: Well, we hope so. But the immediate focus is much more in Mexico. The issues there are more complex and we think we can get very good progress very quickly.

BARTIROMO: Understood.

Let me move on to China, secretary. The president there said this morning that there would be no winner in a global trade war. Your reaction to what's coming out of China. Do you feel that you've been able to move the needle yet in terms of their theft of intellectual property and technology?

ROSS: Well, we haven't seen any formal steps to resolve those issues. But you see these repeated announcements coming out of China. Things that they're doing with the banking system, bolstering capital, bolstering liquidity. Clearly they're feeling pressure from the tariffs that the president has put on. And equally clearly, they're having some difficulty implementing their retaliatory tariffs.

BARTIROMO: Do you feel better now that there's this agreement in place with the E.U. potentially teaming up with the E.U. against China to pressure China to stop bad behavior?

ROSS: Well, as you know, the E.U. has suggested several times publicly that they hope they could resolve things with us so that they could join with us very aggressively in dealings with China. We'll have to see what turns out from that. But it certainly is a good step, regardless of what happens with China, to move toward a level playing field in a zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barrier and zero subsidy environment with the E.U.

BARTIROMO: Understood.

A lot of great information, secretary. Good to see you this morning. Thanks so much.

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