Ross: 'Nobody's going to actually notice' new tariffs on China

Ross: 'Nobody's going to actually notice' new tariffs on China
© Anna Moneymaker

Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossThe Hill's 12:30 Report: O'Rourke jumps into 2020 fray 'Marie Antoinette' activist attends House hearing to protest Trump Commerce chief The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Senate GOP clash over Yemen, border security MORE on Tuesday said U.S. consumers would see little impact from new tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods unveiled this week by the Trump administration.

Trump announced Monday that the administration would impose 10 percent tariffs on more than 6,000 Chinese imports beginning on Sept. 24 and increase the tax to 25 percent at the end of the year.

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The tariffs would target a broad array of imports, including fish such as salmon and halibut, vegetables, nuts, grains, orange juice, and metals including titanium and uranium.

Ross told CNBC on Tuesday that Americans wouldn’t notice price differences on the affected Chinese imports, arguing the tax is but a “tiny, tiny fraction” of U.S. inflation.

“If you have a 10 percent tariff on another $200 billion, that’s $20 billion a year,” Ross said. “Because it’s spread over thousands and thousands of products, nobody’s going to actually notice it at the end of the day.”

Advocates for U.S. manufacturers and retailers have ramped up their opposition to Trump’s tariffs over concerns they could derail an otherwise strong economy. Business groups argue that tariffs on imports would raise prices for vulnerable Americans while retaliation to those levies could harm or shutter small farms and manufacturers.

The Chinese government on Tuesday said it would impose new tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods, and Trump has previously said he’s willing to slap levies on all Chinese imports.

While Ross sought to temper growing concerns about the economic impact of Trump’s trade policy, his argument raises questions about the effectiveness of the tariffs.

Taxes on imports are intended to push consumers toward buying goods from domestic manufacturers by raising the cost of foreign competitor products. A lack of a meaningful price difference between U.S. and foreign goods could do little to bolster American manufacturers against Chinese rivals.

Ross has previously downplayed how tariffs imposed by the Trump administration could impact U.S. consumers. The secretary in March used cans of Budweiser, Campbell’s soup and Coca-Cola to defend Trump’s imposition of tariffs and aluminum and steel, arguing the taxes would only lead to minor price hikes.