Trump, Wilbur Ross wanted to use food inspections as a bargaining chip in trade deals: report

The president's reservations on food safety only seem to apply when the food comes from a foreign country

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published February 28, 2017 9:09PM (EST)

 (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump, who once denounced the "FDA Food Police" and vowed to gut food safety protections as a way of stopping "inspection overkill," apparently is absolutely fine with inspecting food that comes from a foreign country.

In a leaked audio conversation with Wilbur Ross that took place in December, when the then-president elect had already nominated Ross for commerce secretary, Trump discussed using food inspections as a leverage tool in trade negotiations with Japan, according to Gizmodo.

"If you look at Japan, what they do with food — they say it’s not clean enough, and you have to send it back, and by the time it comes back it’s all gone," Trump told Ross.

"Exactly. And we oughta let them know we’re gonna start playing the same game," Ross replied.

"Well I think you let them know that we’re going to do that. Without saying that, you say, 'We’re gonna inspect you so closely,' bomp bomp," Trump added.

"Yeah. That’s the thing — not to say that it’s punitive, but in the interest of American safety," Ross told Trump.

Based on the leaked recording, it seems that Trump's determination to turn up the heat on foreign food has less to do with xenophobia than his longstanding opposition to free trade. Later in the same conversation, Trump denounced what he described as "free trade bullshit" and discussed "something I’ve always said: 10 percent tariff or tax to do business in the United States. For everybody. China. Everybody. Straight across the board, 10 percent."

Since that time the Trump administration has seemed somewhat more flexible on tariffs.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

MORE FROM Matthew Rozsa

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Donald Trump Food Japan Wilbur Ross