Wilbur Ross wants America to crack down on China and other countries that don’t fight fair on trade.
Ross, President Donald Trump’s pick for commerce secretary, warned during his confirmation hearing this week that the new administration will punish trade cheaters.
The billionaire investor called out China and others for “malicious” trading tactics like excessive tariffs and the dumping of excess aluminum and steel.
But Ross also pointed out that were were less-obvious ways that he believes the U.S. is getting abused by some of its trading partners.
“These non-tariff trade barriers can be insidious and, unfortunately, quite effective. We need to deal with some of these,” Ross told the U.S. Senate on Wednesday.
Ross said he’s come across some of these sneaky tactics during his 50-year career as an investor in the distressed steel, automotive and textile industries.
“I’ve been a personal victim of it,” Ross said.
While experts point to intellectual property theft and tinkering with their currencies as ways that countries give themselves the upper hand, here are the trading obstacles that anger Ross the most — and areas the Trump administration may decide to target:
Mad cow hysteria: Ross believes concerns about mad cow disease in U.S. meat have been exaggerated by other countries, which have curtailed imports of U.S. meat.
“I eat quite a bit of beef, and as far as I know I don’t have mad cow disease,” Ross joked. He added, “Although some people see applying to be secretary of commerce as a sign that I do.”
CDC statistics show there have only been four confirmed cases of mad cow disease in the U.S. between 1993 and 2015.
That’s why Ross argues these food safety claims are just being used as an excuse to hurt U.S. exports.
“If it’s good enough for Americans to eat, it’s good enough for others to eat,” he said.
Zombie companies: Ross called out China’s generous support for its state-owned enterprises and estimated that one-third of them have never been profitable.
“They’re being kept alive. That looks and feels — and tastes a lot like artificial subsidies,” he said.
While the U.S. hasn’t attacked these intricate relationships between Beijing and its companies in the past, Ross said the Trump administration will be “very scrupulous” at looking into the matter.
Auto emission hold-ups: Ross complained that too often countries the U.S. has a treaty with agree to lower tariffs on cars, but later claim the U.S. has subpar environmental standards.
Trump’s pick for commerce secretary said these nations are essentially saying: “Ha-ha, your cars don’t qualify as environmentally correct in our country.”
Ross is skeptical that U.S. environmental requirements, which Republicans have attacked as too stringent, are truly lacking.
“It’s clearly just a device to make it more difficult for American companies,” Ross said.
Port harassment: Ross has little patience for “inordinate delays” at foreign ports caused by “undue inspections.”
He argued that these delays of American products amount to “harassing the export process.”
Ross believes fixing all of these issues can help level the playing field for the U.S. on trade.
“American ingenuity, American management and American labor can compete very, very effectively — it’s a fair fight,” Ross said. “In a lot of cases, it’s not a fair fight.”