Trump still hasn't made up his mind on House border tax, Commerce's Wilbur Ross says

Sec. Ross on BAT: Administration will wait for House Ways & Means proposal
Sec. Ross on BAT: Administration will wait for House Ways & Means proposal

President Donald Trump remains undecided as the debate swirls around the polarizing border adjustment tax provision that's part of the House GOP's overall plan to reduce corporate taxes, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC on Friday.

"We've been studying it very carefully. But I don't believe the president has taken a position on it just yet," he said on "Squawk Box."

The idea of a border adjustment tax on imports is "very complex," said Ross, a billionaire who made his fortune investing in distressed assets. Many details would need to be worked out "so it doesn't produce unintended consequences," he said.

Critics say the border tax would lead to high prices for consumers and hurt U.S. companies that rely on imports, such as retailers. Advocates argue any burden on import-heavy companies would be offset by an increase in the dollar's value due to the policy, thus negating the need for importers to hike prices.

While towing the White House's noncommittal line, Ross did say in general the way American companies are taxed on the global stage is unfair. "Something needs to be done to fix that one way or the other," he argued.

Ross took issue with the way consumption-based value added taxes in other countries are treated. "They get a rebate of it, usually something approaching 20 percent on their exports."

"We don't have a value added tax. And three times the WTO [World Trade Organization] has ruled against measures passed by Congress to let our exporters deduct their corporate income taxes on exports when they make the export," he added. "It's an inherently unfair anomaly."

The Commerce secretary on CNBC Friday also made a case for the Trump administration's tougher stance on trade, dismissing the notion that ramping up the rhetoric would kick off a trade war because the U.S. is already in a trade war. "We have been for decades. The only difference is that our troops are finally coming to the rampart," he said.