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Commerce Secretary Ross: 'The ultimate objective of the president is to reduce tariffs'

Tae Kim
Ross insists the Trump administration's aggressive approach on tariffs will eventually help American companies.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC on Thursday that rising tensions in trade negotiations between the U.S. and the rest of the world will help lower trade barriers for American companies.

"The ultimate objective of the president is to reduce tariffs, reduce trade barriers and make an open level playing field for U.S. companies all around the world, whether it's in China or anywhere else. That is the end game that we are seeking," he said on " Squawk Box ." "In order to get there, we've had to do some other measures."

Trade tensions with China rose to new highs Monday when President Donald Trump instructed the U.S. trade representative to identify $200 billion worth of Chinese goods for additional tariffs at a rate of 10 percent.

"So what we have to do is create an environment where it's more painful for these parties that have these huge trade barriers ... got to make it more painful for them to keep those barriers than to get rid of them," Ross said.

The Trump administration also put tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union earlier this month. The U.S. initially gave those allies a reprieve from those duties, but the exemptions expired.

In the interview, Ross also told CNBC he doesn't have any investments in Russia and never has.