Interviews

Ross: Trump intends to negotiate a new climate agreement

On 'Your World,' the commerce secretary discusses the president's decision to pull out of the Paris climate pact

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," June 1, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: We should point out as well that 22 U.S. senators, all Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, have advised the president this is a horrible deal, get out of it.

Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, who you also heard, was among those saying it's a bad deal.

Rex Tillerson, of course, the secretary of state, had said it's a better idea to stay in this and get some leverage from all of that.

But in the meantime, we're going to be hearing from Wilbur Ross on this, the commerce secretary of the United States.

Secretary, if you can hear us...

WILBUR ROSS, U.S. COMMERCE SECRETARY: Yes, I can hear you fine, Neil.

CAVUTO: Very good to have you, sir.

There's some concern expressed in the global community that we just alienated ourselves. What do you say?

ROSS: Well, any time that people were taking money out of your pocket and you make them put it back in, they're not going to be happy. And that's what is happening here.

CAVUTO: Do you worry, Secretary, that this could hurt us on other trade- related matters that if we pushed ourselves outside of this agreement, others in Europe, elsewhere will be leery to enter into any agreement?

ROSS: Well, I don't agree with that at all.

There's no reason to link one agreement with another. The sky didn't fall when we pulled out of TPP. And the sky certainly won't fall now that we have pulled out of the Paris accord. I think the president is right. He was elected by people in Pittsburgh, not Paris.

CAVUTO: All right, you're talking about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Asian trading deal, pact that the president said was just a waste of time.

ROSS: Yes. Yes.

CAVUTO: But you know how it broke down? Because you had Elon Musk, of course, founded Tesla, who said that if the president went through on this, he would quit the president's Economic Council. Others have hinted at the same.

Tim Cook came down hard saying this was too important to leave behind. Who else do you fear could leave the president on that Economic Council as a result of this?

ROSS: Well, I don't know about that.

But I think anybody who read the agreement and understood it would realize that this was not really about climate. This was about U.S. money going to other countries. And it didn't solve the climate problem.

Under this agreement, China's emissions would actually go up every single year until 2030. Similarly, India had no restrictions on building much more coal plants than they had before. The only ones who were making an economic sacrifice were the United States. That's no agreement at all.

CAVUTO: Now, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former head of ExxonMobil, had argued better for us to stay in and use that leverage and just our size and wealth as leverage than to be on the outside. What do you think of that argument? Obviously, it didn't pan out for the president.

ROSS: Well, I have a great deal of respect for Secretary Tillerson.

I happen to disagree strongly with him on this particular issue. I just don't see the connection, frankly.

CAVUTO: Do you believe yourself, Secretary, that man is behind climate change or the slowly warming temperatures since the pre-Industrial Age?

ROSS: Well, talking about warming temperatures, the studies from MIT showed that if we did everything in this Paris agreement, it would only change the temperature by the year 2000 (sic) by two-tenths of one degree.

Anybody who thinks you can make that long-term a forecast with any kind of accuracy, I don't agree with.

CAVUTO: All right, but do you think that the rise we have had in temperatures since then owes any connection to man?

ROSS: It may. I'm not a scientist.

But the debate over the Paris accord is not a debate over scientists. The debate over the Paris accord is an economic debate. The president made clear we already are far ahead of other countries in terms of CO2 reduction.

And how can it be an effective deal if it lets China and India, two of the major polluters, keep increasing their pollution for another decade or two? That doesn't sound to me like a climate accord. It simply sounds like a transfer of wealth from the United States to other countries.

CAVUTO: Now, what will it mean? You're a former coal guy before coming to Washington, billionaire. Do you think that that industry has a shot now? Others are saying, well, it's a dying industry, it's a dying energy. What are you saying?

ROSS: Well, coal right now contributes about one-third of the entire energy supply of the entire United States and it contributes a lot more than that to China.

So coal is going to be around. But the difference is, it will be American coal that will be mined. It will now provide enough resources. We can deal with clean coal. We can deal with LNG. People who were in favor...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: You're talking about liquefied natural gas. It's a cleaner fuel.

That has really been propelling this cut in emissions we have seen. Do you expect that to continue?

ROSS: Yes, I certainly do.

It's very cheap on a BTU basis and it's very, very much more efficient from an environmental point of view. There's no reason we shouldn't be even exporting LNG to other parts of the world.

Part of the reason that China is using so much coal is they really don't have much LNG. So it seems silly that we aren't promoting the export of LNG. And, as you remember, President Obama and Secretary Clinton sat on dozens of applications to export LNG. It makes no sense.

If you're in favor of the clean environment, you should be in favor of the existing cleaner fuels.

CAVUTO: Secretary, I know the way this works is that, while we're leaving, we will have to wait at least three years, because this became official in 2016. And then there's an extra year for a waiting period, I guess, that would carry the formal separation, so after the next U.S. presidential election, the day after it, November 4, 2020.

So does that mean, Secretary, that we are not formally and technically out of this until then?

ROSS: Well, I don't know about the legal technicalities.

But what the president has made clear is he intends to negotiate a new climate agreement, either by revising the existing Paris agreement or by creating a totally new agreement, but one that is not so lopsided, that doesn't put all of the burden on the United States.

CAVUTO: Sir, we're getting word, not surprisingly, from a number of foreign leaders, the mayor of Paris, who is blasting this move. The Canadians are saying it was regrettable.

I'm sure we will get more from that from the nearly 200 participants in this agreement. Does that affect you at all in going about the job that you have to do? You're the commerce Secretary. You're the most important company person in that administration as far as that is concerned.

And if you want to do anything with your foreign counterparts, that could have just been, whatever your views notwithstanding, made more difficult by this. Right?

ROSS: There's nobody with whom -- who runs a trade surplus with us who is going to refuse to talk about trade. That's silly. That's just not going to happen.

But I don't -- I'm not surprised that they are opposed to it, the other countries, because they were the beneficiaries. If there was going to be billions and billions of dollars of wealth transfer from us to them, why wouldn't they be for it? They should be for it.

If Mr. Trump makes a new deal, you can bet it won't be transferring American wealth outside.

CAVUTO: Do you know whether that came into the thinking here, Secretary, where how the rest of the world feels about us even mattered?

It mattered a lot to them over there, obviously. But it didn't seem a great deal with this president. And for a while with Ronald Reagan, I know, in his early days, it really didn't seem to matter a great deal.

But what do you think? How much do you weigh relationships with the rest of the world and whether this boomerangs, whatever logic and soundness there might be in rejecting it?

ROSS: Well, I think the task for the rest of the world is to mend their fences and come back and agree with us on a deal that is equitable.

That is what the president wants. It's not that he doesn't want a climate deal. He wants a deal that is fair and a deal that doesn't cost us trillions of dollars in GDP and millions of jobs just to line the pockets of developing countries and European countries.

CAVUTO: Real quick. I know you have to go, sir.

But you mentioned GDP. And the Atlanta Fed, the Atlanta Federal Reserve, is out with an estimate of second-quarter growth that could be north of 3.5 percent. I believe they said 3.8 percent.

Now, your budget, not yours specifically, the administration's budget, calls for 3 percent growth per annum over the next 10 years. That would seem to indicate it's possible, if we could repeat whatever could be going on in the quarter we're in. Do you believe? Do you believe that that kind of growth is sustainable, the minimum of 3 percent?

ROSS: Well, I certainly do, assuming that the Congress passes the tax reform, assuming that we implement the regulatory reform.

CAVUTO: But what if that is delayed? Do you worry that they're not really moving very fast on that? Maybe they can't. If that doesn't materialize, let's say it's delayed, what then?

ROSS: Well, every day that goes by is a day that the Congress being lackadaisical costs American business and American workers money.

It's very, very sad that just for partisan reasons they're playing that game.

CAVUTO: Well, it's Republicans, right? Republicans. They're bickering in the Senate among just Republicans on the health care effort that you guys are trying to lead, right?

So, would the problem ironically be, even with Republicans in charge of the House and the Senate, to say nothing of where you are, at the White House, that they don't get it done? Are you worried about that?

ROSS: Well, we have yet to see the Democratic leadership do anything affirmative. Where is their plan? If they don't like our plans for these things, where are their...

CAVUTO: But, no, I'm sorry, sir. I'm asking about the Republicans.

If they can't agree on a plan, are you worried that they're -- if you look at the legislative calendar, there isn't a hell of a lot of time to get stuff done, let alone break the debt limit thing. Do you think, like Secretary Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, that you should just raise it and move on?

ROSS: I think the Congress has got to get its act together. I think they will get their act together. And, if they don't, I think it will be up to the voters to make changes.

CAVUTO: Then, Secretary, does that mean, if you will indulge me on this, that if the health care thing is delayed, obviously, the tax cut things is delayed -- do you see a possibility that the tax cuts, more to the point, could be a 2018, not a 2017 event?

ROSS: Well, it's very, very hard to handicap exactly the timing in the Congress.

But what is clear is that every day that it's delayed is a day that there's money out of the pockets of every American taxpayer and every American business. And that makes it a very sad day.

CAVUTO: Finally, sir, you're a pretty savvy investor. That's how you got your wealth.

And you buy opportunities that others pass over or ignore or don't think are worth it. This market has been soaring since the president's election. It continues to soar even through this climate accord doubting and shelving, the Dow again springing I think darn near record territory. I would have to check myself on that.

The NASDAQ and the S&P, though, did hit records today. Many argue the markets are factoring in they're going to get tax cuts, factoring in they're going to get regulatory relief. What if they're wrong?

ROSS: Well, I think what they're factoring in is, they know there is a new administration in Washington.

Every day, I have CEOs coming in to see me. Every single one of them says how much better he feels or she feels already. Almost every single one of them is hiring more people and is making more capital expenditures based on the confidence in the president.

CAVUTO: All right. I lied. I had a curious question back to Elon Musk, if you don't mind.

If he's leaving, and it's possible that others on the economic -- or this business corporate council, whatever you want to call it, opt out because they're so against what the president did on this, do you have names to replace them?

ROSS: Oh, there are no end of businessmen who wanted to be on that council.

But it was decided to keep it a very small number. I don't think there will be the slightest problem replacing them, not that we won't miss their participation, but filling those vacancies is not going to be a problem.

CAVUTO: Wilbur Ross, thank you very much, the secretary of commerce for these United States. Thank you, Secretary.

ROSS: Thank you, Neil.

CAVUTO: All right.

END

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