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CNBC Transcript: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross Speaks with CNBC's "Squawk Box" Today

WHEN: Today, Tuesday, June 11, 2019

WHERE: CNBC's "Squawk Box "

The following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC interview with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on CNBC's "Squawk Box" (M-F, 6AM – 9AM) today, Tuesday, June 11th. The following is a link to video of the interview on CNBC.com: https://www.cnbc.com/video/2019/06/11/full-interview-with-commerce-secretary-wilbur-ross-squawk-box.html.

All references must be sourced to CNBC.

BECKY QUICK: PRESIDENT TRUMP CALLING INTO "SQUAWK BOX" YESTERDAY. HE COMMENTED ON MANY TOPICS, INCLUDING STRIKING A TRADE DEAL WITH CHINA.

SOUND FROM PRESIDENT TRUMP INTERVIEW: THE CHINA DEAL'S GOING TO WORK OUT. YOU KNOW WHY? BECAUSE OF TARIFFS. BECAUSE RIGHT NOW, CHINA IS GETTING ABSOLUTELY DECIMATED BY COMPANIES THAT ARE LEAVING CHINA, GOING TO OTHER COUNTRIES, INCLUDING OUR OWN, BECAUSE THEY DON'T WANT TO PAY THE TARIFFS. AND CHINA WILL, IN MY OPINION, BASED ON A LOT OF FACTS AND A LOT OF KNOWLEDGE, CHINA'S GOING TO MAKE A DEAL BECAUSE THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE TO MAKE A DEAL.

QUICK: JOINING US RIGHT NOW TO TALK TARIFFS, TRADE, AND MUCH MORE IS U.S. COMMERCE DEPARTMENT SECRETARY WILBUR ROSS. HE IS COMING TO US LIVE FROM THE SELECT USA INVESTMENT SUMMIT AND SECRETARY ROSS, THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE TODAY. IT'S GOOD TO SEE YOU.

WILBUR ROSS: WELL, THANK YOU, BECKY. GOOD TO SEE YOU.

QUICK: I KNOW THAT TRADE AND TARIFFS HAVE BEEN AN ISSUE – OR THE TARIFFS HAVE BEEN AN ISSUE THAT YOU HAVE LONG BEEN A PROPONENT OF. WE HEARD FROM THE PRESIDENT YESTERDAY, BUT WHAT DO YOU THINK IS GOING TO HAPPEN WITH CHINA?

ROSS: WELL, I THINK THE PRESIDENT IS EXACTLY RIGHT. EITHER WE WILL COLLECT MORE AND MORE TARIFFS ON MORE AND MORE PRODUCTS, OR WE WILL MAKE AN ARRANGEMENT WITH THEM THAT DEALS WITH BOTH THE CURRENT SITUATION – SOYBEANS, LNG, PLANES, THINGS LIKE THAT – AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, THE FUTURE – INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS, GETTING RID OF FORCED TECHNOLOGY TRANSFERS, ALL OF THE ABUSES THAT WE'VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT. AND FINALLY, CODIFYING ALL OF THAT IN A WAY THAT AT THE END OF THE DAY, IF THERE ARE VIOLATIONS, WE CAN TAKE UNILATERAL ACTION TO CURE THEM. UNLESS WE HAVE ALL THAT IN A PACKAGE, IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE TO GO AHEAD.

QUICK: THAT'S A VERY TALL ORDER AND PROBABLY NOT SOMETHING THAT WE'RE GOING TO SEE GET RESOLVED LATER THIS MONTH AT THE G20. HOW LONG DO YOU THINK THIS PROCESS ACTUALLY TAKES?

ROSS: WELL, THE G20 IS NOT A PLACE WHERE ANYONE MAKES A DEFINITIVE DEAL. THE TRADE DEAL IS GOING TO BE THOUSANDS OF PAGES. AT THE G20, AT MOST, IT WILL BE A 40,000-FOOT LEVEL, SOME SORT OF AGREEMENT ON A PATH FORWARD. IT'S CERTAINLY NOT GOING TO BE A DEFINITIVE AGREEMENT.

QUICK: THE MARKETS HAVE BEEN ANTICIPATING THAT A DEAL WILL EVENTUALLY GET DONE, ALTHOUGH I WILL SAY THAT THERE'S BEEN – THAT'S KIND OF SEEPED INTO THINGS IN THE LAST MONTH OR SO. WHAT'S YOUR THOUGHT? DO YOU THINK THERE ULTIMATELY IS A DEAL BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES AND CHINA?

ROSS: WELL, I THINK THERE EVENTUALLY WILL BE. EVEN SHOOTING WARS END IN NEGOTIATION. SO, I THINK EVENTUALLY THIS WILL END IN NEGOTIATION. BUT YOU KNOW, THE MARKETS GET A LITTLE TOO JUMPY AND A LITTLE TOO TRIGGER HAPPY. WHEN WE WERE HAVING THIS WITH MEXICO, PEOPLE WERE GETTING HYSTERICAL – OH MY GOD, TARIFFS ON MEXICO, SKY IS FALLING. IT ONLY TOOK A FEW WEEKS, AND NOW WE HAVE A RESOLUTION THAT APPEARS LIKELY TO HELP SOLVE THE BORDER CRISIS AND ALSO DID NOT INVOLVE BIG TARIFFS. SO, I THINK WHAT PEOPLE HAVE TO LEARN TO DO, JUDGE THIS ADMINISTRATION BY RESULTS. DON'T JUDGE IT BY INTERIM SOUND BITES.

QUICK: ALTHOUGH –

ROSS: INTERIM SOUND BITES ARE NOT HOW YOU MAKE BIG THINGS HAPPEN.

QUICK: YOU DID BRING UP THE IDEA OF COMPARING THESE TRADE WARS TO ACTUAL FIGHTING WARS. ASH CARTER IS HERE, THE FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, AND HE JUST SAID, "WE'VE BEEN AT WAR KIND OF NONSTOP." THAT'S THE WAY THINGS WORK TODAY. DO YOU ANTICIPATE WITH THE PRESIDENT'S ADMIRATION OF TARIFFS AND HOW EFFECTIVE HE THINKS THEY ARE AS A TOOL, DO YOU ANTICIPATE THAT THIS IS KIND OF GOING TO BE A CONSTANT TRADE WAR THAT WE'RE DEALING WITH FROM HERE ON OUT, TOO?

ROSS: WELL, NO. THINK ABOUT WHAT HAS ACTUALLY HAPPENED DESPITE ALL THE MOANING ABOUT TRADE WARS, THE FACT IS WE HAVE, FIRST OF ALL, THE USMCA DEAL WITH MEXICO AND CANADA, WHICH I THINK IS A VERY GOOD DEAL FOR ALL THREE COUNTRIES, BUT ESPECIALLY FOR US. WE HAVE A NEW DEAL WITH KOREA CALLED KORUS. NOW WE HAVE THE DEAL WITH MEXICO AND OTHERS THAT ACTUALLY HELPS THE BORDER AND DOESN'T HURT TRADE. THOSE ARE INCREDIBLE ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN LESS THAN A THREE-YEAR TIME PERIOD. SO, IF PEOPLE HAD A MORE BALANCED VIEW OF LIFE, PEOPLE WOULD SAY, "GEE WHIZ, THAT'S A LOT," ESPECIALLY ON TOP OF A VERY STRONG DOMESTIC ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT. SO, I THINK THAT PEOPLE IT'S EASY TO GET MIRED DOWN IN THIS LITTLE WORRY, THAT LITTLE WORRY. LOOK AT THE BIG CHORUS, LOOK AT WHAT'S REALLY HAPPENING. LOOK AT THE RESULTS. DON'T GET TOO OBSESSED WITH THE IN-BETWEEN DETAILS. THOSE ARE JUST A ROAD STOP ALONG THE HIGHWAY TO SUCCESS.

ASH CARTER: MR. SECRETARY, GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN. THIS IS ASH CARTER. HOW ARE YOU?

ROSS: HI, ASH HOW ARE YOU?

CARTER: GOOD. CAN I TAKE YOU BACK TO CHINA AND WE DON'T HAVE TO CALL IT A WAR IF YOU DON'T WANT TO.

ROSS: SURE.

CARTER: BUT IT IS NOT A COLD WAR, EITHER, BECAUSE WE HAD AN IDEOLOGICAL COMPETITION WITH A COMMUNIST DICTATORSHIP BEFORE, WHICH WAS THE SOVIET UNION, BUT WE NEVER TRADED WITH IT AND SO, WE ARE IN A MORE COMPLICATED SITUATION. AND YOU WERE TALKING EARLIER, IT SEEMED TO ME, ABOUT THE ENTIRE PLAYBOOK FOR PROTECTING OUR COMPANIES AND OUR FRIENDS FROM WHAT IS A COUNTRY THAT CAN BRING TO BEAR ON COMPETITION – MILITARY, ECONOMIC, AND POLITICAL TOOLS ALTOGETHER, WHICH A COUNTRY LIKE OURS OBVIOUSLY CAN'T DO. AND SO, WE DO LOOK TO OUR GOVERNMENT TO PROTECT OUR COMPANIES FROM THAT. AND TARIFFS ARE OBVIOUSLY A PIECE OF THAT. BUT CAN YOU GO BACK TO YOUR VERY FIRST REMARKS? YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT, IF YOU LIKE, WHAT WAS THE ENTIRE TABLE OF CONTENTS OF OUR NEW PLAYBOOK FOR PROTECTING OURSELVES AND COMPETING FAIRLY, OR AT LEAST ON SOME EVEN KIND OF PLAYING FIELD WITH CHINA.

ROSS: RIGHT. THE CONTENT IS A VERY SIMPLE ONE. IT'S AMERICA FIRST, BUT IT'S NOT AMERICA ALONE. WE ACTUALLY HAVE GOTTEN MORE COOPERATION FROM OUR ALLIES, PARTICULARLY VIS-A-VIS CHINA, SINCE WE'VE BEEN USING TARIFFS, THAN WE EVER HAD BEFORE. ON MULTIPLE OCCASIONS NOW, BOTH THE EU AND JAPAN HAVE BEEN CO-SIGNATORIES WITH US ON LETTERS ATTACKING VARIOUS PRACTICES USED BY CHINA. THAT NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE. I THINK WHAT IT PROVES IS THAT WHEN YOU PUT THINGS IN STARK REALITY, PEOPLE HAVE TO FOCUS. AND AT SOME POINT, THEY HAVE TO FIGURE OUT WHAT'S IN THEIR ENLIGHTENED SELF-INTEREST. WE ARE CARRYING THE CUDGEL FOR LOTS OF PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD, BUT WE ALSO ARE REQUIRING THEY MUST DO THEIR PART. THEY MUST DO THEIR PART IN SUPPORTING NATO. THEY MUST DO THEIR PART IN SECURING THEIR BORDERS. THEY MUST DO THEIR PART IN COOPERATING AGAINST EVIL PRACTICES, WHEREVER THEY COME FROM. THAT'S THE DIFFERENCE. PEOPLE BEFORE WERE ASSUMING THAT WORLD LEADERSHIP MEANT BEING THE WORLD'S EASY MARK. WE DON'T VIEW IT THAT WAY. WE VIEW WORLD LEADERSHIP AS TAKING RISKS, TAKING STRONG POSITIONS, REASONED POSITIONS, AND REALLY PURSUING THEM. THAT'S THE PHILOSOPHICAL DIFFERENCE.

CARTER: I'M GLAD TO HEAR YOU SAY THAT ABOUT OTHER COUNTRIES, BECAUSE IT DOES SEEM TO ME PART – AND WHAT YOU'RE SAYING IS – THAT PART OF THE BIG-PICTURE PLAYBOOK, IN ADDITION TO TARIFFS WITH RESPECT TO CHINA, IS STICKING UP FOR OUR FRIENDS AS WELL AND THEM STICKING UP FOR US. BECAUSE YOU KNOW, CHINA'S JUST ONE COUNTRY. AND SO, TO THE EXTENT THAT EVERYBODY ELSE IS PUSHING THEM THE SAME WAY WE'RE PUSHING THEM IN TERMS OF LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD, THAT STRENGTHENS OUR HAND AS WELL.

ROSS: EXACTLY.

QUICK: SECRETARY ROSS, YOU'RE –

ROSS: EXACTLY LOOK AT –

QUICK: GO AHEAD, SIR.

ROSS: LOOK AT EUROPE. WE HAD THIS GLOBAL STEEL FORUM, WHICH WAS BASICALLY A TALKING SOCIETY. EVERY QUARTER THEY WOULD MEET. EVERY QUARTER THEY WOULD BABBLE ABOUT THIS AND THAT AND NOTHING HAPPENED. WE PUT ON THE STEEL AND ALUMINUM TARIFFS, AND ALL OF A SUDDEN, EUROPE STARTED PROTECTING ITS BORDER, JAPAN INTRODUCED A SYSTEM FOR THE FIRST TIME OF POLICING THEIR BORDER AND HAVING TRADE ENFORCEMENT. THOSE ARE THINGS THAT ARE NOT VISIBLE. THEY DON'T NECESSARILY MAKE THE HEADLINES, BUT THEY DO CHANGE THE PLAYING FIELD.

WILFRED FROST: BUT MR. SECRETARY, IN TAKING ON CHINA, YOU COULD HAVE BROUGHT THE EU, MEXICO, CANADA, AND JAPAN ALONGSIDE YOU MUCH MORE EFFECTIVELY THAN YOU HAVE DONE.

ROSS: I TOTALLY DISAGREE WITH THAT. FIRST OF ALL, IF YOU HAVE THREE PEOPLE ON YOUR SIDE AGAINST ONE GUY ON THE OTHER SIDE, YOU'RE GOING TO WASTE HALF YOUR TIME TRYING TO GET A CONSENSUS AMONG THREE PEOPLE IN THE ROOM IT'S TOO HARD. WE BELIEVE MORE IN BILATERAL ARRANGEMENTS, BECAUSE THAT'S A ONE-ON-ONE KIND OF A MANO A MANO ARRANGEMENT. WHEN YOU HAVE MULTIPLE PARTIES INVOLVED, EVERYTHING GETS DILUTED DOWN TO THE LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR. THAT'S ONE OF THE HISTORICAL PROBLEMS WITH THESE DEALS WITH MULTIPLE, MULTIPLE COUNTRIES.

JOE KERNEN: I LIKE THAT. I LIKE THAT STATED AS FACT, THOUGH. INSTEAD OF COULD YOU HAVE DONE BETTER IF YOU HAD BROUGHT IN – CAN I ASK YOU ABOUT –

FROST: THAT WASN'T THE QUESTION I ASKED.

KERNEN: NO, I KNOW. YOU SAID YOU COULD HAVE DONE –

ROSS: WELL, WE'LL NEVER KNOW, BUT WE'RE DOING VERY WELL. WE'RE DOING VERY WELL.

KERNEN: THERE'S A CONTEMPT VOTE NOW, TOMORROW, APPARENTLY, ON THE CENSUS ISSUE. ELIJAH CUMMINGS HAS SCHEDULED A COMMITTEE VOTE FOR WEDNESDAY. THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION IS BASICALLY NOT HONORING ANY SUBPOENAS. IS THIS JUST GETTING CAUGHT UP IN THAT, WILBUR? WHY ARE YOU NOT –

ROSS: WELL, WAIT A MINUTE, LET'S NOT SAY WE'RE NOT HONORING THIS AND THAT. WHAT WE ARE RESPECTING IS LONGSTANDING PRACTICE. WE'RE NOT ACCEPTING THE UNREDACTION OF DOCUMENTS THAT THREE LOWER COURTS, TWO APPELLATE COURTS, AND THE SUPREME COURT HAVE GONE ALONG WITH. LET'S MAKE SURE WE DEFINE EXACTLY WHAT'S GOING ON. WE HAVE PRODUCED TO THE HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE 14,000 PAGES OF MATERIAL. I TESTIFIED BEFORE THEM FOR ALMOST SEVEN HOURS. WE'RE PRODUCING THREE MORE WITNESSES, THE ONLY THREE THAT THEY'VE REQUESTED, INCLUDING ONE TODAY. SO PLEASE DON'T TELL ME WE'RE NOT COOPERATING.

KERNEN: OKAY.

ROSS: WHAT WE ARE DOING IS COOPERATING IN A RATIONAL WAY THAT'S CONSISTENT WITH THE RULES, THE REGULATIONS, THE LAWS, AND PRIOR PRACTICE.

QUICK: SECRETARY ROSS, YOUR COMMERCE DEPARTMENT IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE BAN ON AMERICAN COMPANIES PROVIDING TECHNOLOGY TO HUAWEI. WE'VE HEARD FROM PRESIDENT TRUMP, AND HE HAS MENTIONED IN THE PAST THAT THAT COULD BE A SITUATION THAT GETS WRAPPED UP INTO THE TRADE TALKS. YOU ALSO LED THE WAY ON BRINGING THE CHARGE AGAINST ZTE, AND THAT WAS LATER NEGOTIATED DOWN. WOULD YOU BE UPSET IF THE BAN ON HUAWEI ENDS AS PART OF THE TRADE TALKS WITH CHINA?

ROSS: WELL, FIRST OF ALL, WHAT WE ACTUALLY DID WITH HUAWEI IS A DIFFERENT SITUATION FROM WHAT WE DID WITH ZTE. ZTE'S SITUATION WAS THE RESULT OF THEIR VIOLATING AN AGREED-UPON – A COURT-AGREED-UPON SETTLEMENT OF A LITIGATION. SO THE FRAME OF REFERENCE WAS DIFFERENT. SO, THEY WERE PUT ON A DENIAL BASIS. HUAWEI WE HAVE PUT ON A BASIS WHERE THEY ARE ON A LIST, AND THAT LIST REQUIRES AMERICANS WHO ARE GOING TO SELL THEM THINGS TO GET A SPECIFIC LICENSE FOR THOSE ACTIONS. SO, IT'S NOT QUITE THE SAME SITUATION. IT IS THE SAME IN SOME WAYS IN THAT BOTH ARE DOING PRACTICES THAT WE THINK ARE POTENTIALLY INJURIOUS TO OUR NATIONAL SECURITY AND WHATEVER IS THE OUTCOME, WE'RE GOING TO MAKE SURE THAT OUR NATIONAL SECURITY IS PROTECTED.

KERNEN: HEY, MR. SECRETARY, I'M JUST READING THIS ELIJAH CUMMINGS STATEMENT. HE MENTIONS THE WORD BIPARTISAN LIKE THREE OR FOUR TIMES IN TERMS OF THE SUBPOENAS. HOW MANY REPUBLICANS ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT? IS THIS LIKE THE JUSTIN AMASH IMPEACHMENT BIPARTISAN SUBPOENA? I MEAN, HOW MANY REPUBLICANS IS ELIJAH CUMMINGS REFERRING TO HERE ON THE CONTEMPT – OR THE SUBPOENA?

ROSS: WELL, I HAVE NO IDEA, BUT IT REALLY DOESN'T MATTER. THE FACT IS, WE BELIEVE WE'RE ON SOLID LEGAL GROUNDS FOR THE POSITION THAT WE HAVE TAKEN –

KERNEN: YOU EXPECT THAT THERE'S GOING TO BE –

ROSS: WE HAVE COOPERATED –

KERNEN: WILL YOU BE HELD IN CONTEMPT TOMORROW, MR. SECRETARY?

ROSS: I HAVE NO IDEA. THE COMMITTEE WILL HAVE TO VOTE. AND THEN I GUESS NEXT, IT WILL POTENTIALLY GO TO THE FULL HOUSE.

KERNEN: OKAY.

ROSS: BUT THE IMPORTANT THING IS NOT THAT. THE IMPORTANT THING IS THE SUPREME COURT SOMETIME BETWEEN NOW AND THE END OF THIS MONTH WILL MAKE THE DEFINITIVE DECISION ABOUT WHETHER WE PUT THE CITIZENSHIP QUESTION ON. THEY'RE THE ONES THAT ARE IMPORTANT. AND THIS IS JUST A SIDE SHOW DESIGNED TO DISRUPT THE SUPREME COURT PROCESS.

FROST: MR. SECRETARY, I'M A LITTLE CONFUSED AS TO WHETHER YOU'RE SAYING YOU'RE BRINGING CERTAIN ALLIES ALONG WITH YOU OR NOT. NOW THAT THE ISSUES WITH MEXICO ARE SETTLED, CAN THE EU EXPECT TO FACE MORE TARIFFS?

ROSS: WELL, THEY'RE DIFFERENT THINGS. WE DON'T HAVE A MIGRATION PROBLEM WITH THE EU. WE HAD A BORDER PROBLEM WITH MEXICO. THIS RECENT GO-AROUND WAS INTENDED TO DEAL WITH THAT. I THINK IT HAS DEALT WITH THAT IN A VERY EFFECTIVE FASHION. WITH THE EU, OUR ISSUES ARE MUCH MORE PURELY TRADE ISSUES. AND YOU SAW WITH MEXICO, WE RESOLVED VERY COMPLICATED TRADE ISSUES WITH A VERY INNOVATIVE, AND I THINK, VERY EFFECTIVE AGREEMENT THAT WILL BE VERY GOOD FOR AMERICAN WORKERS AND AMERICAN FARMERS. SO, THEY'RE DIFFERENT SITUATIONS.

QUICK: SECRETARY ROSS, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US TODAY. WE DO APPRECIATE YOUR TIME.

ROSS: WELL, THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR HAVING ME ON. I ENJOYED CHATTING WITH YOU.

For more information contact:

Jennifer Dauble
CNBC
t: 201.735.4721
m: 201.615.2787
e: jennifer.dauble@nbcuni.com

Emma Martin
CNBC
t: 201.735.4713
m: 551.275.6221
e: emma.martin@nbcuni.com