Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on potential price increases from Trump tariffs: 'No big deal'

  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross tells CNBC that President Donald Trump's tariffs are "no big deal."
  • Ross says the tariffs on aluminum and steel will have a "broad" but "trivial" impact on prices.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC on Friday that President Donald Trump's tariffs are "no big deal."

During an appearance on "Squawk on the Street," Ross said the tariffs will have a "broad" but "trivial" impact on prices. "What was announced yesterday by the president is a very broad concept," he said.

Ross used a can of Campbell's Soup to stress his point about what he calls insignificant price increases from Trump's tariffs.

"In a can of Campbell's Soup, there are about 2.6 pennies worth of steel. So if that goes up by 25 percent, that's about six-tenths of 1 cent on the price on a can of Campbell's Soup," Ross contended. "I just bought this can today at a 7-Eleven ... and it priced at a $1.99. Who in the world is going to be too bothered?"

On Thursday, Trump announced new tariffs on aluminum and steel, sparking fears of a possible trade war and sending the stock market into a tailspin. The Commerce Department recommended imposing heavy tariffs or quotas on foreign producers of steel and aluminum last month in the interest of national security.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross holds up a Campbell's Soup in regards to aluminum tariffs trade policy.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross holds up a Campbell's Soup in regards to aluminum tariffs trade policy.

Ross said at the time that steel is, in fact, important to U.S. national security, and that current import flows are adversely impacting the steel industry.

The secretary of Commerce "concludes that the present quantities and circumstance of steel imports are 'weakening our internal economy' and threaten to impair the national security," the department said Feb. 16.

"This is not the first time we put tariffs on steel. We have tariffs on many forms of steel," Ross said Friday. "The reason why we've had to go this route is they don't solve the problem of overcapacity in global dumping."

"Economic strength is military strength," Ross said, stressing the president is right on that.

Prior to Ross' comments, Campbell Soup spoke on Trump's new tariffs. The company said, "Any new broad based tariffs on imported tin plate steel – an insufficient amount of which is produced in the U.S. – will result in higher prices on one of the safest and more affordable parts of the food supply."

In a tweet Friday morning, Trump suggested the U.S. would come out on top if the new tariffs were to spark an international trade war.

But not everyone close to Trump is happy about tariffs.

There are multiple media reports casting doubt on the future of top economic advisor Gary Cohn after he was unable to convince the president not to impose steel and aluminium tariffs.

Cohn, who was the No. 2 executive at Goldman Sachs before joining the White House, is seen by Wall Street as a moderating voice in the administration.

In a brief gaggle with reporters Friday morning, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about whether the former Goldman Sachs executive is staying as director of the National Economic Council.

"I don't have any reason to think otherwise right now," she said. "Gary was here yesterday afternoon, I talked to him in my office several times."

Sanders also said, Trump is "pretty committed" to his announced new policy, saying she did not expect the 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent on aluminum to change.

WATCH: Tariffs could lead to unintended consequences

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