Possible new U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods not 'cataclysmic': Commerce Secretary

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross attends a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 18, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New tariffs that the United States is threatening to impose on nearly half the goods imported from China would have a small impact on the Asian nation’s economy and not lead to disaster, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Thursday, as U.S. financial markets were set to open lower on the trade standoff.

“It’s not something that’s going to be cataclysmic,” he said in an interview with Fox Business Network, explaining that a 25 percent tariff on $200 billion of goods would only amount to $50 billion a year, equal to less than 1 percent of China’s economy.

Ross said President Donald Trump “now feels that it’s potentially time to put more pressure on” China to “modify their behavior.”

Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Wednesday that Trump directed the increase from a previously proposed 10 percent duty because China had refused to meet U.S. demands and had imposed retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods.

Trump’s threats of higher tariffs also weighed on China’s financial markets. But Wang Yi, the Chinese government’s top diplomat, said U.S. efforts to pressure China would be in vain, urging its trade policymakers to “calm down.”

(Corrects name of network in second paragraph to Fox Business Network from Fox Business News)

Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Bernadette Baum