Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross defended President Trump's proposed steel and aluminum tariffs amid widespread concerns from world leaders. "We're not trying to blow up the world. There's no intention of that," Ross said in an interview with CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Thursday.
Ross also denied that the administration wants a trade war, despite Mr. Trump's repeated calls that trade wars "aren't so bad."
"We're not looking for a trade war. We're going to have very sensible relations with our allies," said Ross.
He added, "The president indicated the other day he has a willingness to provide an exemption to Canada and Mexico."
On Tuesday, the president suggested exemptions were possible during a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven.
"If we're able to make a deal with Canada and Mexico in NAFTA, then there will be no reason to do the tariffs with Canada and Mexico. But again, other countries we won't have that choice, unless they can do something for us," said Mr. Trump.
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his concerns over the proposals in a phone call with Mr. Trump earlier this week. According to a Canadian readout of that call, the prime minister "emphasized that the introduction of tariffs would not be helpful to reaching a deal on NAFTA." The White House argued that Mr. Trump was committed to a NAFTA agreement that was "fair to all three countries" and one without a trade deficit for the United States.
Meanwhile, Mr. Trump appears to pushing ahead with his tariffs despiteto his own White House. Chief Economic Adviser Gary Cohn , after he had urged the president not to impose the tariffs.
Mr. Trump tweeted that he would be making a decision soon on who would be replacing Cohn, and later slammed his predecessors for "bad policies and leadership" in accumulating massive trade deficits.