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Wilbur Ross: Stock-Market Downturn Won’t Deter Trump on Trade

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross attends a meeting of the National Space Council in the East Room of the White House, June 18, 2018. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said definitively Monday that the Trump administration will not alter its protectionist trade agenda in response to a downturn, however drastic, in the stock market.

“There’s no bright-line level of the stock market that’s going to change policy,” Ross said on CNBC’s Squawk Box. “The president is trying to fix long-term problems that should have been fixed a long time ago.”

Widespread concern about the administration’s expanding trade war with both European allies and China is slowing the bull market that Trump has enjoyed since taking office. Ross, however, cast the downturn as the inevitable cost of high-level trade negotiations in his comments Monday.

“There is obviously going to be some pulling and tugging as we try to deal with very serious problems,” he said. “There will be some hiccups along the way.”

The comments come after Axios reported Sunday that the White House has drafted a bill that would withdraw the U.S. from the World Trade Organization (WTO) and grant Trump autonomy to unilaterally raise tariffs against any country to a rate of his choosing.

Ross downplayed the reports, calling any talk of a U.S. withdrawal from the WTO “premature.”

The European Union, Canada, and Mexico have responded to the American steel and aluminum tariffs implemented in May with retaliatory tariffs of their own. China has vowed further retaliation for the separate China-specific tariffs that went into effect Friday. And, in a letter sent to the Commerce Department Friday, the E.U. threatened massive retaliatory tariffs on some $300 billion in U.S. auto exports if the administration moves to tax European auto imports.

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