Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday the coronavirus outbreak that began in Wuhan, China, and has killed at least 170 people could be positive news for the U.S. economy.
Ross made the remark during an appearance on Fox Business network’s “Mornings with Maria” after saying the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which President Donald Trump signed during a White House ceremony on Wednesday, made a recession in 2020 “almost physically impossible.” Host Maria Bartiromo asked if the spread of coronavirus could offset the gains he predicted the deal would bring.
“First of all, every American’s heart has to go out the victims of the coronavirus. So, I don’t want to talk about a victory lap over a very unfortunate, very malignant disease,” Ross said. “But the fact is, it does give businesses yet another thing to consider when they go through their review of their supply chain.”
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Ross said the virus is “another risk factor” that people will consider before doing business in China.
“So, I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America, some to U.S., probably some to Mexico as well,” he said. “You’ve already heard Apple talking about figuring out how to replace some of the Chinese production.”
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Ross’ comments were criticized by many on social media as insensitive.
“These people are so sick and heartless. And just imagine the uproar if a member of any other administration said this,” said radio host Michelangelo Signorile.
“When it comes to Coronavirus, Wilbur Ross is apparently a glass-half-full kind of guy,” tweeted Washington Post reporter Aaron Blake.
“Typical sensitivity from the Trump administration,” said columnist Michael Schuman. “Wilbur Ross might as well have said ‘the more of those Chinese who die over there, the more jobs for us!!'”
It was not the first time Ross has been accused of callousness.
During the lengthy government shutdown in January 2019, Ross said he didn’t see why furloughed federal workers were having to go to food banks or having trouble taking care of their families when they could just take out a loan.