Commerce Secretary Ross: We've Been in a Trade War for a Long Time

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is putting U.S. trading partners who violate trade laws on notice.

Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE Corp. plead guilty and agreed to pay $1.19 billion in penalties for breaking sanctions and selling U.S. manufactured goods to Iran and North Korea, U.S. officials announced Tuesday.

In an interview with FOX Business Network’s After the Bell, Ross said a portion of the penalty is being held back as an incentive for their continued compliance over the next seven years.

“It’s a very rigorous auditing and other measures that the government will be taking to make sure that they fly straight and no longer make illegal shipments to North Korea or to Iran,” he said.

ZTE was found to have breached United States sanctions against Iran in March 2016.

Ross said investigation was coordinated by the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, and included the Department of Justice and U.S. Treasury.

“It was collaboration among all those departments. Obviously, the Department of Justice is the one who filed the actual papers,” he said.

The commerce secretary discussed concerns about the current U.S. trade deficit and said the country has been in a trade war for a “long time.”

“The only difference is that our troops are now coming to the ramparts. That’s the difference,” Ross said.

He also weighed in on President Trump’s meeting with American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations President Richard Trumka.

Despite their differences, the commerce secretary said both President Trump and Trumka share the same objective: getting more Americans back into the work force.

“I think they share a very common goal of helping the American worker. There may be some nuances, some differences in how to do it, but that’s the overarching objective of the president and of Mr. Trumka,” he said.