The U.S. economy will fall short of the Trump administration’s goal of 3 percent growth this year and will only achieve that when its regulatory, tax, trade and energy policies are fully in place, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Tuesday.
The GDP target “is certainly not achievable this year,” Ross told Reuters in an interview. “The Congress has been slow-walking everything. We don’t even have half the people in place.”
But Ross said it ultimately could be achieved in the year after all of Republican President Donald Trump’s business-friendly policies are implemented. He noted that delays were possible if the push for tax cuts was slowed down in Congress.
Ross also signaled the Trump administration would try to use existing tools to aggressively enforce trade rules and insist on fairer treatment for U.S. goods, rather than adopt the slash-and-burn approach Trump discussed on the campaign trail in 2016.
The comments appear to represent another move to the center by the administration, with Ross acknowledging that trade deficits for things like imported oil are “blameless” and not inherently bad.
Ross, a billionaire investor, said the Commerce Department is working on some “self-initiated” anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases on behalf of private industries that could help shield them from unfairly traded imports.
“I believe that enforcement will be one of the major tools for fixing things,” he said.
FEARS OF PROTECTIONISM
U.S. trading partners have been spooked by Trump’s vow to renegotiate or pull out of trade deals, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he considers unfair to U.S. industry and workers.
Ross said that the administration was still undecided on whether to split NAFTA into parallel bilateral deals with Canada and Mexico or stick with the current trilateral format.
A possible rise in the use of U.S. tariffs to punish foreign companies deemed to be competing unfairly also has raised concerns of a wave of protectionism.
Ross, however, insisted that the Trump administration was not aiming to restrict trade with its actions.