Trump Official Dismisses Warnings About Trade Tensions As 'Hiccups'

Trucks pass by cargo containers April 6 in Seattle. President Trump is preparing to impose tariffs on an additional $34 billion in Chinese imports on Friday, a move that China has promised to match.
Trucks pass by cargo containers April 6 in Seattle. President Trump is preparing to impose tariffs on an additional $34 billion in Chinese imports on Friday, a move that China has promised to match.
Ted S. Warren/AP

The Trump administration is doubling down on its trade rhetoric, even as other countries ready tariffs on American goods and U.S. business groups part company with the president over his trade policies.

"The president is trying to fix long-term problems that should have been dealt with long time ago [and] weren't, and there obviously is going to be some pulling and tugging as we try to deal with very serious problems. So there will be some hiccups along the way," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC Monday.

Ross was asked whether trade frictions were to blame for the lackluster performance of the U.S. stock market recently. The Dow Jones industrial average is down slightly for the year.

The remarks came as tensions between the U.S. and its trading partners are ramping up, with tariff threats and counterthreats echoing through the global economy.

Trump is preparing to impose tariffs on an additional $34 billion in Chinese imports on Friday, a move that China has promised to match.

Over the weekend, Canada responded to U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum by imposing tariffs on $12.6 billion worth of U.S. goods including coffee, whiskey and aluminum products.

Meanwhile, the European Union released a statement warning that Trump's proposed tariffs on auto imports would harm the U.S. economy.

As conflicts escalated, some major business lobbies that are usually among Trump's biggest supporters were pushing back.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released an analysis of how tariffs would affect all 50 states. Among the states that are hardest hit are Washington, California and Ohio.

In a statement, the chamber's CEO and president, Thomas Donohue, said:

"Using a combination of tariffs and tough negotiating tactics, the Trump administration is attempting to solve a number of real and serious trade challenges facing America around the world. Its approach, however, runs the risk of erasing the recent economic gains it worked so hard to secure through tax and regulatory relief without even solving the underlying problems."

Those sentiments were echoed in an MSNBC appearance Monday by Tim Phillips, president of the Koch brothers-funded group Americans for Prosperity.

"This administration deserves a lot of credit for this economy doing better. Their tax cuts, tax reforms, eliminating barriers on the regulatory front," Phillips said. "But these tariffs risk undermining everything good that's been happening."

Phillips also said his group supported proposed legislation that would make it harder for the White House to impose tariffs unilaterally.

But Trump has shown no signs of backing down so far. For example, he has continued to bash Harley-Davidson, which last week said it would move production of some motorcycles overseas to avoid new tariffs imposed by the European Union.

"I devoted a lot of time to Harley-Davidson. I treated them good," Trump said in an appearance on Fox News.

"I think that Harley is an American bike. It's an American motorcycle. And they should build them in this country," he added. Trump predicted that as a result of its decision, the company would "take a big hit. Those are my voters. They don't want Harley-Davidson getting cute to make $2 more."

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