Wilbur Ross Calls Out Firms for Using Tariffs as ‘Excuse’ for Firings

Commerce secretary: EU trade talks will be fast-tracked

Farmland in the desert near Palmdale, Calif. Farm-state lawmakers are concerned the Trump administration’s sanctions will hurt their farmers. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross criticized companies that have fired workers because of those tariffs. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross called out U.S. companies that blame President Donald Trump’s tariffs after laying off employees, saying they are using the White House’s trade policies as an “excuse.”

“Look at the actual statistics. A lot more jobs are being created,” Ross told pool reporters Thursday on Air Force One. He said the Trump administration’s employment data “do not show that employment is being hurt,” predicting “very good numbers for the June period.”

When it comes to tariffs-affected companies firing employees, Ross said  “in many cases that’s not the main reason.”

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The Commerce chief also indicated talks will be accelerated on the unresolved matters in the mini-deal Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced Wednesday.

“That’s very hard to judge. Normally trade discussions take months” or more, he said. “We’re going to try to do them much faster.”

Additionally, Ross said his department will submit its report on auto tariffs to Trump in August.

“In terms of auto tariffs, we’ve been directed by the president to continue the investigation, get our material together, but not actually implement anything pending the outcome of the negotiation,” he said, referring to the process to resolve trade disputes with the EU that was announced Wednesday.

Though many Republican lawmakers have criticized Trump’s tariff tussle with U.S. allies and rivals, Ross credited the president’s tough policies with making the EU mini-deal possible.

“If we hadn’t had steel and aluminum tariffs, we never would have gotten to the point we are now,” the secretary said. “This is a real vindication of the president’s trade policy.”

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