Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: Trump speaks with world leaders, no tariff exemptions

WASHINGTON, March 4 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump has spoken to world leaders about his planned tariff hikes on steel and aluminum and is not considering any exemptions to the measure, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Sunday.

"I know he's had conversations with a number of the world leaders," Ross said in an interview with ABC's "This Week."

"The decision obviously is his, but as of the moment as far as I know he's talking about a fairly broad brush. I have not heard him describe particular exemptions just yet," Ross said.

On Thursday, Trump said the United States would apply duties of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum to protect domestic producers, drawing a fire storm of criticism from trading partners and triggering a slide in stock markets.

Ross played down the possible effects of the proposed tariffs on the U.S. economy. He said the total amount of tariffs the U.S. government is proposing is about $9 billion a year, a fraction of 1 percent of the economy.

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U.S. President Donald Trump announces that the United States will impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on imported aluminum during a meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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Chairman, CEO and President of Nucor John Ferriola and U.S. Steel CEO Dave Burritt flank U.S. President Donald Trump as he announces that the United States will impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on imported aluminum during a meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly listens as U.S. President Donald Trump meets with bi-partisan members of Congress to discuss school and community safety in the wake of the Florida school shootings at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 28, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and press secretary Sarah Sanders listen as U.S. President Donald Trump announces that the United States will impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on imported aluminum during a meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump holds a meeting where he announced that the United States will impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on imported aluminum at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with bi-partisan members of Congress to discuss school and community safety in the wake of the Florida school shootings at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 28, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) speaks as Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), C, and U.S. President Donald Trump listen during a bi-partisan meeting with members of Congress to discuss school and community safety in the wake of the Florida school shootings at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 28, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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"So the notion that it would destroy a lot of jobs, raise prices, disrupt things, is wrong," Ross said.

The commerce secretary dismissed European Union threats of retaliatory tariffs on flagship American products including Harley Davidson motorcycles, bourbon and Levi's jeans as trivial and a "rounding error."

On Saturday, Trump threatened European automakers with a tax on imports if the European Union retaliates.

Ross said the Europeans were discussing a "pretty trivial amount of retaliatory tariffs, adding up to some $3 billion of goods.

"In our size economy that's a tiny, tiny fraction of 1 percent," Ross said. "So while it might affect an individual producer for a little while overall, it's not going to be much more than a rounding error." (Reporting by Doina Chiacu Editing by Alexander Smith and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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