Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross made a stunning admission about the ongoing trade war with China in a Wednesday interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box.

The Trump administration recently announced its intentions to delay placing tariffs on goods imported from China, which could be seen as Trump “blinking” in his trade war. The tariffs were set to be imposed on technology like cellphones, laptops, and other toys made in China, but won’t be put in place until December 15. The New York Times reported that Trump “continued to insist… that the trade war was hurting only China,” though he did admit that the tariffs could “inflict economic pain closer to home.”

“What we’ve done is we’ve delayed it so that they won’t be relevant for the Christmas shopping season,” Trump said, after reiterating that the delay was “just in case [tariffs] might have an impact on people.”

In his interview with Squawk Box‘s Joe Kernan, the Commerce Secretary was more candid than his boss in highlighting how the administration knew the tariffs would hurt American consumers.

ROSS: Nobody wants to take any chance of disrupting the Christmas season. We don’t think —

KERNEN: So you’re saying you didn’t extract anything from China to do this? There was no quid-pro-quo?

ROSS: No quid-pro-quo.

NBC News recently fact-checked Trump’s claim that China was paying for his tariffs, rating the claim as false. Earlier this month, Princeton University economist Stephen Redding — who wrote a study analyzing the impact of President Trump’s tariffs in 2018 — said exporters (like China) don’t pay anything when tariffs are imposed. Rather, customers buying those imported goods pay for those tariffs in the form of higher prices. In that way, tariffs are essentially a trade tax, as Republican activist Grover Norquist has argued.

“In traditional economics, the tariff would be shared by consumers in the U.S. and Chinese exporters,” Redding told NBC News. “But when we went into the data, so far the entire tariffs have been passed through [to Americans].”

Tariffs imposed by the Trump administration have led to direct job losses in already struggling industries. In 2018, a Commerce tariff on newsprint paper imported from Canada was scrapped by the U.S. International Trade Commission, following job losses at McClatchy newspapers like the Tampa Bay Times and the Charlotte Observer.

(Featured image: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons)


Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.

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