Economics

Wilbur Ross Tells CNBC: Trade War Not Hurting Economy [TRANSCRIPT]

The following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and CNBC’s Jackie DeAngelis on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” (M-F 3PM – 5PM) today, Wednesday, August 22nd.  The following is a link to video of the interview on CNBC.com: https://www.cnbc.com/video/2018/08/22/commerce-secretary-wilbur-ross-winning-trade-war-china-trump-tariffs.html.

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Wilbur Ross

DEANGELIS: GOOD AFTERNOON TO YOU, DAVID. WE ARE GOING TO GET STRAIGHT TO SECRETARY ROSS HERE TO TALK ABOUT THE RIBBON CUTTING CEREMONY, CENTURY ALUMINUM. YOU JUST GAVE SOME REMARKS TALKING ABOUT HOW IMPORTANT THIS IS. THIS IS A WIN CERTAINLY FOR ALUMINUM TODAY. BUT CHINA STRUCK BACK SINCE THE ANNOUNCEMENTS WERE MADE. SO IT’S POSSIBLE THAT THIS WIN COULD COME AT A COST.

ROSS: WELL, THERE WILL BE SOME RETALIATION. BUT SO FAR WE ARE WAY AHEAD OF THE GAME. LOOK AT THE UNEMPLOYMENT FIGURES. THEY ARE GOING DOWN. LOOK AT THE FACT THAT THERE ARE NOW 6.6 MILLION JOBS UNFILLED AND ONLY 6 MILLION WORKERS WITHOUT THEM. THE ECONOMY IS SURGING. 4.1% IN THE QUARTER. IT DOESN’T FEEL TO ME LIKE WE ARE BEING BOTHERED VERY MUCH BY RETALIATIONS AS A COUNTRY. THERE ARE INDIVIDUAL HARDSHIPS THAT HAVE BEEN UNFAIRLY CREATED BY CHINA. THAT’S WHY PARTICULARLY IN AGRICULTURE THE PRESIDENT HAS APPROPRIATED $13 BILLION TO HELP FARMERS WHO ARE UNFAIRLY HIT BY CHINA.

DEANGELIS: ALSO, THE STOCK MARKET RESPONDING CERTAINLY TO FEARS OVER THE TRADE WAR. IT SEEMS THAT THE MARKET IS TAKING THINGS IN STRIDE, A RECORD HIGH FOR THE S&P YESTERDAY. BUT ALSO, SOME OF THE MOVES FORWARD SEEM TO TEND TO TAKE STOCKS HIGHER. IS IT BREAK THROUGHS THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE? AND DO YOU THINK INVESTORS ARE EMBRACING WHAT THE PRESIDENT IS DOING.

ROSS: HELL, ANYBODY WHO CAN COMPLAIN ABOUT A STOCK MARKET THAT IS AT AN ALL TIME HIGH STRIKES ME AS A LITTLE BIT SILLY. IF THE MARKET WAS WORRIED IT WOULD NOT BE AT AN ALL TIME HIGH.

DEANGELIS: A REAL QUICK QUESTION FOR YOU: IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT CHINA BUT IT’S ALSO ABOUT CANADA, IT’S ABOUT MEXICO, IT’S ABOUT RUSSIA. SPEAKING ABOUT MEXICO, IS IT POSSIBLE AS THE MEDIA HAS REPORTED THAT THERE IS A HANDSHAKE DEAL ON THE TABLE?

ROSS: WELL WE ARE TRYING TO GET TO A DEAL. WE ARE MAKING PROGRESS. WE DON’T HAVE THE DEAL JUST YET. BUT I THINK A DEAL IS VERY LIKELY WITHIN REACH IN THE VERY, VERY NEAR FUTURE.

DEANGELIS: SOME HEADLINES YESTERDAY, SOME BIG NEWS COMING OUT WITH COHEN AND MANAFORT. HOW DOES THIS IMPACT THE ADMINISTRATION AND WHAT YOU CAN DO IN TERMS OF MAKING TRADE PROGRESS?

ROSS: THERE IS NO IMPACT WHATSOEVER.

DEANGELIS: NO IMPACT AT ALL.

ROSS: NO.

DEANGELIS: YOU ARE NOT WORRIED ABOUT A DISTRACTION?

ROSS: NO. WE ARE DOING OUR JOB.

DEANGELIS: GLOBAL ECONOMIES AROUND THE WORLD ARE WATCHING US INSIDE AT THE ROUND TABLE. YOU SAID THERE IS A NEW MARSHALL IN TOWN HERE, DONALD J TRUMP. HE IS BRINGING PEOPLE TO THE TABLE THAT NEVER WERE WILLING TO TALK BEFORE.

ROSS: THAT’S CORRECT.

DEANGELIS: SO ELABORATE ON THAT. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR THE FUTURE?

ROSS: WHAT IT MEANS IS WE FINALLY WILL GET TO NEGOTIATIONS AND THE WAY EVERYTHING EVENTUALLY ENDS IS IN NEGOTIATIONS. BUT YOU HAVE TO PRECONDITION PEOPLE TO MAKE THE KINDS OF DECISIONS THAT YOU NEED BEFORE YOU GO INTO THE NEGOTIATION. REMEMBER, THESE OTHER COUNTRIES THAT HAVE BEEN SPOILED BY DECADE AFTER DECADE OF UNTOWERED BENEFITS AT OUR EXPENSE BECAUSE OF ERRORS, POLICY ERRORS THAT WERE MADE EARLIER. THEY ARE NOT GOING TO GIVE THAT UP EASILY. NATURALLY THEY WILL RETALIATE A LITTLE BIT. BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY WE HAVE MANY MORE BULLETS THAN THEY DO. THEY KNOW IT. WE HAVE A MUCH STRONGER ECONOMY THAN THEY HAVE. THEY KNOW THAT, TOO. AND THE THING THEY HAVE BEEN UNDER ESTIMATING IS HOW PATRIOTIC THE AMERICANS INCLUDING THE ONES WHO HAVE BEEN HIT WITH RETALIATION REALLY ARE. THEY’LL KNOW PRETTY SOON.

DEANGELIS: SECRETARY ROSS, THANK YOU SO MUCH.

ROSS: THANK YOU.

DEANGELIS: DAVID FABER, I WILL SEND IT BACK TO YOU.