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January 23, 2017

Trump Commerce, Treasury Nominees Address China In Confirmation Hearings

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce last week held a confirmation hearing for Wilbur Ross, President Donald J. Trump’s choice to lead the U.S. Commerce Department. (As a reminder, MSCI issued a press statement after Ross’s nomination. Click here to read that statement.) 

In his testimony, Ross noted that China has “both very high tariff barriers and very high non-tariff trade barriers” and argued that the country “is the most protectionist country of very large countries.” President Trump’s nominee to lead the Treasury Department, Steve Mnuchin, also discussed China during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Banking last week. According to Politico’s “Morning Trade,” Mnuchin “said he would commit to naming China a manipulator if Beijing were found to be intentionally devaluing its currency to gain export advantages.” Politico did caution, however, that Mnuchin’s statement “was premised on the idea that China is not currently manipulating its currency …” 

In his Commerce hearing, Ross also discussed the importance of trade enforcement, saying “countervailing duties and punishment to people for dumping is essential because there are inappropriate and illegal trade practices being performed, and if you don't really punish them, you're never going to modify their behavior.” Ross also said one of his top trade priorities is to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. Ross also focused on the need for additional federal investment in infrastructure. While Ross has called for giving federal tax credits for private investment in infrastructure, he said last week that he “certainly” thinks that “there’s a role for the federal government to play just as there is for state and local government to play in dealing with some of these critical infrastructure needs of communities.”