By Alan Murray and David Meyer
January 25, 2018

Good morning.

Jonathan Swan of Axios is reporting this week that President Trump has lost faith in his Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross. If true, that’s a shame, because Ross did a better job than Trump has to date explaining the president’s trade policies to a hostile audience in Davos.

For starters, Ross said the U.S. has no intention of withdrawing from a leadership role in global trade. He noted that, even with recent actions imposing retaliatory tariffs on solar panels and washing machines, the U.S. remains the world’s least protectionist major economy.

He said U.S. generosity on trade after War World II was designed to help Europe and Asia recover from the war, and shouldn’t have become permanent policy. “We don’t intend to abrogate leadership,” Ross said. But “leadership is different from being a sucker and being a patsy.”

Ross also summarily dismissed the notion, put forward here last year by Xi Jinping, that China can take the lead in global trade. He criticized the Chinese financial system, which provides subsidies to key industries, as well as Chinese policies forcing foreign companies to transfer technology, and China’s failure to adequately protect intellectual property. “The Chinese have for quite a little while been superb at free-trade rhetoric and even more superb at highly protectionist activities,” he said.

Still, the CEOs of global companies here worry the administration’s heated rhetoric and accelerating action on the trade front will prompt retaliation from other countries, and push the world into an unintended trade war. That’s why all are anxiously anticipating the President’s speech tomorrow afternoon. (I’ll be watching, but only after hitting the ski slopes in the morning.)

You can see the full Davos conversation with Ross, Cargill CEO David MacLennan, Standard Charter CEO Bill Winters, Eni Chair Emma Marcegaglia, and GATT Head Roberto Azevedo, here.

News below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray
alan.murray@fortune.com

SPONSORED FINANCIAL CONTENT

You May Like