Commerce secretary: We expect some retaliation from new China tariffs but it won't be the ‘end of the earth’

    • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says he doesn't think there will be a trade war with China resulting from President Donald Trump's latest tariffs.
    • "There will be some ultimate retaliation but I don't think it's going to be the end of the earth," he says.

    Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC on Thursday he doesn't think there will be a trade war with China resulting from President Donald Trump's latest tariffs.

    Ross spoke shortly after the president slapped China with about $60 billion in retaliatory tariffs on Chinese imports.

    "There will be some ultimate retaliation [from the Chinese] but I don't think it's going to be the end of the earth," he said on "Power Lunch."

    Ross called the $60 billion figure a "tiny fraction" of the economies of both the U.S. and China.

    "It's not as though we're blowing them up," he said. "This is not going to put China into a depression. It's not going to put us into a depression. This is simply trying to cure abuses."

    The measures are meant to penalize China for trade practices that the Trump administration says involve stealing the intellectual property of American companies.

    "This is the first of many" trade actions, Trump said, as he signed the executive memo.

    The new measures follow a so-called 301 investigation led by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer into China's potentially unfair trade practices with the U.S.

    Lighthizer's office will publish a list of targeted products in 15 days, and there will be a 30-day period for public comment, according to senior administration officials.

    Ross said this will not mean the end of global trade, but will instead result in negotiations.

    "There may be some firing shots over the bow and things like that but I believe at the end of the day this will end up in a negotiated settlement."

    In fact, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping have a "very good working relationship with each other, particular on North Korea," Ross said. "We're not going to try to disrupt that relationship. But everybody, even our closest allies, must play by the rules."

    He also brushed aside questions about the impact of the tariffs on U.S. economic growth, instead pointing to the damage done by the U.S. trade deficits.

    "The real question is can we continue to afford these mammoth trade deficits that are sucking money out of our country," he said.

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

    — CNBC's Kevin Breuninger and Kayla Tausche contributed to this report.

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