The new U.S. tariff averaging 20 percent on Canadian timber imports shows how serious President Donald Trump is about enforcing trade rules, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC on Tuesday.
"The Trump administration has been much more focused on enforcement than had been true previously," he said, taking a veiled swipe at former President Barack Obama's approach to trade.
In an interview on "Squawk Box," Ross said, however, the new lumber tariff, a result of a long-running dispute, is not the beginning of a trade war with Canada. He said it showed Trump making good on promises to hold Canada accountable for unfair practices such as those that have hurt American dairy farmers.
The president, while traveling in Wisconsin last week, was particularly troubled by the plight of U.S. dairy farmers, said Ross, a billionaire who made his fortune investing in distressed assets.
Trump tweeted a warning about the dairy issue Tuesday morning.
"Canada has made business for our dairy farmers in Wisconsin and other border states very difficult. We will not stand for this. Watch!"
Canada's dairy sector is protected by high tariffs on imported products and controls on domestic production as a means of supporting prices that farmers receive. It's frequently criticized by other dairy-producing countries.
U.S. dairy industry groups want Trump to urge Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to halt a pricing policy that's disrupted some U.S. dairy exports and prioritize dairy market access in NAFTA renegotiation talks.