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The White House really doesn't want to tip its hand on a key House tax reform provision


Two top White House economic advisors have taken pains recently not to hint at where they stand on a key piece of the House Republicans' tax reform plan.

Asked Friday about border adjustment, a House GOP provision that several senators and large retailers have opposed, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross stayed mum.

"Until we see all the details of it, it's really hard for me to come to a conclusion," he said in a joint news conference with Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, Mexico's economic minister. Ross declined to say whether he supported it in a separate CNBC interview this week.

National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn also took no stand on the issue in a CNBC interview Friday. He gave no hint at the White House's position in a separate CNBC interview last month.

In all, Trump's advisors have taken great care in public not to suggest where the White House stands on border adjustment, which could become a point of contention as Republicans aim to pass tax reform later this year. As the House pushes for the position and multiple senators oppose it, the White House's view could prove crucial in whether it passes.

The key House GOP reform provision would tax imports, moving the U.S. closer to taxing consumption. Proponents like House Speaker Paul Ryan say it will encourage economic growth and raise $1 trillion in revenue over 10 years, enough to help to chop the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent.

Many large retailers have argued against border adjustment, saying the tax on lower-cost imported goods may get passed on to consumers.

Informal Trump advisor and CNBC senior contributor Larry Kudlow tweeted this week that sources told him Ross opposed border adjustment. Ross replied that he has "taken no position" on it.

Axios reported last month that Cohn told a group of CEOs that the White House does not support border adjustment. The White House later disputed the report.