When it comes to Donald Trump's trade tariffs, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is one of the administration's most enthusiastic advocates. He may, however, need to work on his presentation.
On CNBC yesterday, Ross reflected on $50 billion in Chinese retaliatory tariffs, which rattled both investors and a whole lot of American farmers. The cabinet secretary, however, shrugged off Beijing's move, saying $50 billion in tariffs is "hardly a life-threatening activity.”
As policy defenses go, arguing that Trump's burgeoning trade war won't literally kill anyone isn't exactly a great sales pitch.
Even more surprising, however, was the White House's not-so-subtle suggestion that Trump's policies might not take effect.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow stressed U.S. tariffs announced on Chinese goods are still only proposals that might never take effect as the Trump administration sought to tamp down fears of a trade war.
"None of the tariffs have been put in place yet, these are all proposals," Kudlow said in an interview Wednesday with Bloomberg News. "We're putting it out for comment. There's at least two months before any actions are taken."
The president's top economics adviser also emphasized to Fox Business yesterday, "Nothing concrete has actually happened. These are proposals."
At yesterday's White House press briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked whether the president intends to follow through and impose the tariffs he's been talking up for the last month. She hedged, saying, "Look, we’re going through the review period."
Asked again if the tariffs will take effect, Sanders replied, "I’m not to get ahead of the process of where we are." Asked once more, the president's spokesperson wouldn't commit to a specific course.