U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on Dec. 3 backed President Donald Trump’s remarks earlier today that a trade deal with Beijing might have to wait until after the 2020 presidential election.
Waiting until the election in November 2020 to sign a trade agreement “takes off the table something that they [Beijing] may think gives them some leverage,” Ross told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”
“Once the election occurs—and the president seems to be in very good shape for the election—once it occurs and he’s back in, now that’s no longer a distraction that can detract from our negotiating position,” he added.
Ross’s comments came hours after Trump said that he had “no deadline” on the trade deal.
“In some ways, I like the idea of waiting until after the election for the China deal. But they want to make a deal now, and we’ll see whether or not the deal’s going to be right; it’s got to be right,” Trump said Tuesday ahead of a meeting of NATO leaders in London.
The president added that Washington is in a stronger negotiating position than the Chinese regime, given China’s weak economic performance.
China reported its slowest economic growth in 27 years in October as the trade tensions with the United States hit its manufacturing sector.
“The China trade deal is dependent on one thing: do I want to make it,” Trump told reporters.
In an interview with Fox Business on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence said that the president is leveraging the strong U.S. economy in trade negotiations with China and around the world.
“What President Trump envisions with tariffs is a means to an end, and the end … is free trade,” he said.
On Dec. 2, Trump reinstated tariffs on steel and aluminum from Brazil and Argentina in response to recent currency devaluation in those countries, which were negatively impacting American farmers, he said.
Ross said he was optimistic about a fruitful trade negotiation with Beijing, given the economic problems in China, “particularly the hollowing out of supply chains.”
A steady string of international firms, including Apple, Dell, Google, Amazon, toymaker Hasbro have announced plans to shift part of their U.S. bound production from China to neighboring countries, such as Vietnam, Malaysia, and Bangladesh.
“That’s a trend that is going to continue, especially as long as there’s the trade uncertainty,” Ross said.