Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the tariffs announced Thursday reflect a lack of progress with Mexico and Canada over NAFTA negotiations.
On Thursday the Trump administration announced it will put tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union.
"Well, it's a reflection that the discussions didn't get far enough to justify another postponement or an exemption," he said on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" Thursday.
Ross also downplayed the impact of the tariffs on prices and the U.S. economy.
"The tariffs are a fraction of one percent on product. The beer, soft drink and soup cans, it's all a fraction of a penny on each of those," he said. "In terms of an automobile, it's also a fraction of one percent. And for the economy overall, it's a very small fraction of one percent."
The tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports will take effect at midnight Thursday. The U.S. gave those allies a reprieve from those duties, but the exemptions were set to expire Friday. The U.S. will also place quotas or volume limits on other countries such as South Korea, Argentina, Australia and Brazil instead of tariffs.