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Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: Tariff delays were not a trade ‘quid pro quo’ with China

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross testifies during the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the census on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017.
Bill Clark | CQ-Roll Call Group | Getty Images

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC on Wednesday that the Trump administration's decision to delay upcoming tariffs on certain items, including smartphones, was not a trade concession to China but to help American consumers.

"Nobody wants to take any chance of disrupting the Christmas season," Ross said, adding that "this was not a quid pro quo" trade negotiations with Beijing.

U.S. trade officials announced Tuesday that certain items were being excluded from President Donald Trump's upcoming 10% tariffs on the $300 billion of Chinese imports not already taxed. Other items subject to additional tariffs are being delayed until mid-December, instead of the original Sept. 1 start date.

Ross told "Squawk Box" that the planned 10% tariffs on the remaining $300 billion of Chinese imports had been in the works a while before the stock market started to decline from July's all-time highs.

"We've been doing analysis since the hearings were announced by the USTR," Ross explained. "Even though they were only announced as being imposed recently, the analytical work began well before that."

The Commerce secretary also shot down speculation that Trump granted the reprieve to halt the volatility on Wall Street. Tuesday's tariff announcement led to a powerful rally that broke a two-session losing streak.

However, U.S. stock futures were sharply lower Wednesday due to recession concerns after the 2-year Treasury yield inverted and moved higher than the 10-year yield for the first time since 2007. A flip in that spread has preceded every recession over the past 50 years.

source: CNBC

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