Foreign ambassadors first to hear from Secretary Wilbur Ross following China tariff announcement

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross

One day after the Trump Administration announced a plan to impose up to $60 billion in new tariffs on China owing primarily to its intellectual property practices, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross debunked the likelihood of this scenario spiraling into a global trade war. Underscoring the need to repair an unfair system, he referenced the automobile tariffs of 2.5%, 10% and 25% among the United States, European Union and China, respectively – and leveraging this as evidence to contradict the protectionism rhetoric seemingly defining the U.S. While current restrictions on U.S. agricultural exports perpetuate this perception, they have not curbed the country’s determination to be globally competitive by remaining globally engaged in free trade, according to the Secretary.

In conversation with The Honorable Carlos M. Gutierrez, Chairman of Meridian’s Board of Trustees and former Commerce Secretary (2005-2009), Sec. Ross joined Meridian on March 23 to brief over 75 ambassadors and senior members of the diplomatic community. He addressed the most pressing international trade issues, notably the complexities of the NAFTA negotiations. Nodding to the tight timeline due to upcoming political elections in all three countries as well as being amid the ‘hard issues phase’ tackling matters like the rules of origin, Sec. Ross emphasized the urgency to make progress on finding a satisfactory agreement – a stipulation to prevent President Trump withdrawing from NAFTA entirely. Across the briefing, he also spoke to the future of U.S. trade policy including the Trump Administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy, the commercialization of space, and efforts to resolve tensions between the U.S. and European Union.

Prior to becoming the principal voice of business in the Trump Administration, Sec. Ross was Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer of WL Ross & Co. LLC. He brings to his current role over 55 years of investment banking and private equity experience, having served at the helm of more than 100 companies in 20 countries.

The briefing was held as part of the Insights at Meridian series, a neutral, non-partisan platform for the diplomatic community to exchange perspectives on pressing issues and build relationships with key U.S. government officials. Insights uncovers the political, social and economic context driving government policies, which enhances the ability of the diplomatic corps to effectively operate in Washington, DC.

Insights is made possible through the generous support of The Walter and Isabel Cutler Endowment for Global Understanding.

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