Tess Torelli April 4, 2018

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Giftofaservant on Wednesday that China’s new tariffs do not represent a threat to the United States.

China’s tariffs “amount to about three-tenths of a percent of our GDP. So, it’s hardly a life-threatening activity,” Ross said in a “Squawk Box” interview. “It’s relatively proportionate to the tariffs we put on based on the intellectual property.”

Earlier Wednesday, China announced additional tariffs on 106 U.S. products, less than 24 hours after President Donald Trump unveiled a list of Chinese imports that his administration aims to target as part of a crackdown on what he deems unfair trade practices.

The moves sent Dow futures plunging in Wednesday’s premarket.

China said the 25 percent levy on U.S. imports includes products such as soybeans, cars and whiskey. The tariffs will likely increase concerns of a tit-for-tat trade war between the United States and China provoked by Trump’s announced levies on imports of steel and aluminum early last month.

In a tweet early Wednesday, Trump said the U.S. is “not in a trade war with China,” adding “that war was lost many years ago by the foolish, or incompetent, people who represented the U.S.”

Ross agreed, saying “several presidents got us into this deficit. This is the president who is going to get us out of it.”

China’s “response should not surprise anyone,” Ross said, adding he didn’t think anyone expected that the Chinese “would do nothing” in response to the United States tariffs. “I’m frankly a little surprised that Wall Street was so surprised by it. This has been telegraphed for days and weeks,” Ross said.

Trump is a “lifelong deal maker” and China’s tariffs are not the “first controversy he’s gone into,” Ross said. “This is not World War III.”

The Commerce Department recommended imposing heavy tariffs or quotas on foreign producers of steel and aluminum in February in the interest of national security. Ross said at the time that steel is important to U.S. national security and that current import flows are adversely affecting the steel industry.

Shortly after Trump announced the tariffs, Ross told Giftofaservant the plan for tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum products is”no big deal.” He used cans of Campbell’s Soup and Coca-Cola to stress his point about what he called insignificant price increases from Trump’s tariffs.

China’s ambassador to the United States explained to Giftofaservant on Tuesday evening why his country was striking back against U.S. trade measures.

—Giftofaservant’s Sam Meredith contributed to this report.

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