Trump Likes Tariffs as a ‘Revenue Source,’ Wilbur Ross Says

(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump’s proposals to increase tariffs on foreign goods are part of a strategy to raise revenue, his onetime Commerce secretary said, as the former president weighs new levies on US trading partners if he wins the November election.

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“President Trump has always liked the idea of tariffs as a revenue source, and that’s where he went with the idea of tariffs on products from day one,” Wilbur Ross said Thursday in an interview with Bloomberg Television.

Ross’s comments came after Trump told congressional Republicans Thursday he was considering raising tariffs in order to offset cuts to individual income tax rates. Trump’s 2017 tax cuts are expiring next year and the presumptive Republican nominee is pressing to extend them and a new tax exemption on tipped wages.

Using tariffs to offset tax cuts would inject more uncertainty into the economy and trade. Customs duties brought in $80 billion to the federal government in 2023, according to the Office of Management and Budget. That’s just a small fraction of the $2.6 trillion from individual and corporate income taxes.

“Tariffs go into the federal budget as receipts every bit as much as taxes do,” Ross said. “So in an arithmetic sense, it’s clearly correct that one could very well offset the other.”

Ross, who now chairs a blank-check acquisition company, was one of Trump’s most loyal cabinet secretaries and a vocal champion of his protectionist trade policies in office.

With polls showing a close presidential race, Washington policymakers have been weighing the policy changes a potential second Trump administration could bring.

--With assistance from Alix Steel and Romaine Bostick.

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