Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says the economy's success depends on infrastructure

  • The strong U.S. economy's continued success depends in no small part on infrastructure, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says.
  • "Corporate earnings certainly have been very, very strong. there's no question about that. And it's also no question that market's job is to look ahead," Ross says. "I think a lot will have to do with whether infrastructure gets the kind of treatment that it really deserves."
  • Ross, speaking at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit in Washington, also says the only real obstacle to passing an infrastructure bill is funding.
Wilbur Ross, U.S. commerce secretary
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Wilbur Ross, U.S. commerce secretary

The strong U.S. economy's continued success depends largely on infrastructure, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Tuesday.

"Corporate earnings certainly have been very, very strong. there's no question about that. And it's also no question that market's job is to look ahead," Ross said. "I think a lot will have to do with whether infrastructure gets the kind of treatment that it really deserves."

Ross, speaking at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit in Washington, was asked whether the prospect of diminished corporate earnings in the near future will be a drag on the economy. He added that the only real obstacle to passing an infrastructure bill is its funding.

"As you know, [the] president is very keen to have an infrastructure program, and the only real issue is how do you pay for it. How much does the federal government do, how much is done by [the] private sector," Ross said.

The concept of an executive-level infrastructure push has itself become a bit of a laughing matter to critics. In February, President Donald Trump proposed spending $200 billion in a bid to coax $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investing mainly from state and local governments, as well as private entities, but the plan went nowhere.

The administration's "Infrastructure Week" theme also became the butt of jokes.

Yet Democratic leaders, such as potential next House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Trump have suggested there could be common ground on a potential infrastructure package. The political calculus is tricky, however, for both parties. Neither side wants to give the other a win heading in to the 2020 presidential election year, and hyperpartisans in either party may well resist passing any compromise legislation.

The Cabinet secretary's remarks came amid an ongoing trial over the inclusion of a question on the 2020 Census asking about the respondent's citizenship. Critics — including New York state, which is suing the Commerce Department — say the question could limit participation among immigrant communities, leading to their under-representation on official government statistics.

Ross has said that he recalled discussing the question withTrump's former advisor Steve Bannon, The New York Times reported in October.

Ross also addressed chatter that he might be on his way out of the Trump administration. He said Tuesday that he would serve as long as the president wants, and that he's seen no indication that his time is short.

Last week, CNBC reported, citing sources close to the president, that Trump has been telling people he wants to replace Ross as Commerce secretary by the end of the year.