Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday that the coronavirus outbreak in China could lead businesses to bring jobs back to the United States and Mexico.
"Well, first of all, every American's heart has to go out to the victims of the coronavirus. So, I don't want to talk about a victory lap over a very unfortunate, very malignant disease," Ross told Fox Business Network on Thursday. "But the fact is, it does give businesses yet another thing to consider when they go through their review of their supply chain."
"On top of all the other things, you had SARS, you had the African swine virus there, now you have this," Ross continued. "It's another risk factor that people need to take into account. 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."
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As of Thursday, there have been more than 7,700 confirmed cases of the virus as the death toll in China hit 170. Nearly 200 Americans were evacuated from the area around Wuhan — considered to be ground zero for the disease. The World Health Organization's emergency committee is set to meet Thursday to decide whether the outbreak is a global emergency, a move it voted against last week.
So far, the virus has been confirmed in five people in the U.S. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday that 165 people are being tested for it.
Following Ross' remarks, a Commerce Department spokesperson said in a statement: "As Secretary Ross made clear the first step is to bring the virus under control and help the victims of this disease."
"It is also important to consider the ramifications of doing business with a country that has a long history of covering up real risks to its own people and the rest of the world," the spokesperson continued. "Fortunately, the Department of Commerce is equipped to support the American people and our businesses to do both."
Earlier this week, Vice President Mike Pence said at a White House event to celebrate the Lunar New Year that the Trump administration "has taken strong action to deal with this virus" and stands "ready to help the people of China confront the coronavirus."
And President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that U.S. experts "are on top" of handling the outbreak "24/7!" He tweeted last week that "China has been working very hard to contain the coronavirus."
"The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency," he said. "It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!"