Davos WEF
Davos WEF

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: The US is not abandoning its strong dollar policy

Key Points
  • Wilbur Ross takes issue with media characterizations that the U.S. was changing its stance on the dollar.
  • The Commerce secretary also expresses optimism over U.S. efforts to get a better NAFTA deal.
  • Despite a report to the contrary, Ross says he still has the full support of President Trump.
Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, at the 2018 WEF in Davos, Switzerland.
Adam Galica | CNBC

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross took issue Wednesday with media characterizations that the U.S. is departing from its historically strong dollar policy.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin's remarks at a news conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland should not be interpreted as a call for a weaker U.S. currency, Ross told CNBC.

Earlier Wednesday, Mnuchin said, "Obviously, a weaker dollar is good for us as it relates to trade and opportunities," but he added that the short-term value is "not a concern of ours at all" and "longer term, the strength of the dollar is a reflection of the strength of the U.S. economy."

The Trump administration has made stronger economic growth a top priority.

Ross said in a "Squawk Box" interview from Davos that Mnuchin "was not advocating anything" in terms of the dollar. "I think what he exactly said is the dollar, just like the Treasury bond market, is a huge market, a very liquid market. It's not something we worry a lot about day by day," Ross argued.

After Mnuchin spoke, the dollar index against a basket of major currencies hit its lowest level since December 2014.

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Ross also told CNBC "there's a good chance" that U.S. efforts to renegotiate NAFTA will be successful.

However, President Donald Trump has also repeatedly said he would pull out of NAFTA if he thought it would lead to a better deal for America.

Ross has been a key player in the Trump administration's efforts to overhaul the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement among the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The 80-year-old billioniare said that remains so, despite an Axios report that Trump has lost confidence Ross' ability to negotiate trade deals. Ross said he still has the support of the president.

Before joining the White House, Ross made a fortune in the investment world, running W.L. Ross & Co., and buying stakes in distressed assets.

Trump is set to depart for Davos Wednesday evening. He's expected to hold meetings with world leaders ahead of his address to the forum on Friday. Bill Clinton was the last U.S. president to go to Davos.