U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Wednesday said he expects trade actions between the United States and China will likely lead to a negotiated deal.
However, he said that it was unclear whether such possible talks would happen by the end of May or later.
"It wouldn't be surprising at all if the net outcome of all this is some sort of a negotiation," Ross told CNBC in an interview. "It's very difficult to put a specific time denomination on negotiations that are as complex as these," Ross said.
Ross told CNBC that China's new tariffs do not represent a threat to the United States.
China's tariffs "amount to about three-tenths of a percent of our GDP. So, it's hardly a life-threatening activity," Ross told CNBC's "Squawk Box."
"It's relatively proportionate to the tariffs we put on based on the intellectual property," he said.
China on Wednesday issued a $50 billion list of U.S. goods including soybeans and aircraft for possible tariff hikes in an escalating technology dispute with Washington that companies worry could set back the global economic recovery, the Associated Press reported.
The country's tax agency gave no date for the 25 percent increase to take effect and said that will depend on what Trump does about U.S. plans to raise duties on a similar amount of Chinese goods.
The moves sent Dow stock futures plunging.
Beijing's list of 106 products included the biggest U.S. exports to China, reflecting its intense sensitivity to the dispute over American complaints that it pressures foreign companies to hand over technology.
The clash reflects the tension between Trump's promises to narrow a U.S. trade deficit with China that stood at $375.2 billion last year and the ruling Communist Party's development ambitions. Regulators use access to China's vast market as leverage to press foreign automakers and other companies to help create or improve industries and technology.
For his part, Trump denied on Wednesday that the United States was in a trade war with China, hours after Beijing slapped tariffs on a list of U.S. imports in retaliation for similar duties levied by the White House one day earlier, Reuters reported.
"We are not in a trade war with China, that war was lost many years ago by the foolish, or incompetent, people who represented the U.S.," Trump wrote in a post on Twitter.
Ross agreed with the president's tweet, saying "several presidents got us into this deficit. This is the president who is going to get us out of it," Ross said.
"I'm frankly a little surprised that Wall Street was so surprised by it. This has been telegraphed for days and weeks," Ross said.
Trump is a "lifelong deal maker" and China's tariffs are not the "first controversy he's gone into," Ross said. "This is not World War III."
(Reuters contributed to this report).
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