US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross has slammed warnings that the Trump administration is taking a protectionist position on trade as "rubbish".
However, Ross, the billionaire investor Trump has made head of trade policy, has said critics should also be looking at Europe, Japan and China, countries he says do not practice what they preach when it comes to trade.
Speaking to the Financial Times, Ross said: "We are far less protectionist than Europe. We are far less protectionist than Japan. We are far less protectionist than China.
"We also have trade deficits with all three of those places. So they talk free trade. But in fact what they practice is protectionism. And every time we do anything to defend ourselves, even against the puny obligations that they have, they call that protectionism. It's rubbish."
Trump has rowed back on his claims that China is a currency manipulator, leading some to believe his stance on trade was softening.
However, Ross, who has been charged with reducing the US' $500bn trade deficit, has made it clear "America first" remains the White House's mantra. He said that Lagarde and others want to preserve the US' trade deficit because it's the status quo.
But that's not going to happen. Our tolerance for continuing to be the deficit that eats the surpluses of the whole rest of the world - the president is not tolerant of that any more.