Senior House Republican says Trans-Pacific trade deal is not dead

People hold signs as they demonstrate against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement in Washington, DC on Nov 14, 2016.
People hold signs as they demonstrate against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement in Washington, DC on Nov 14, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON • The chairman of a powerful tax-writing committee has said that he will continue to promote the benefits of free trade pacts to President-elect Donald Trump, including those offered under the Obama administration's Asian free trade deal.

Describing himself as a "champion of free trade", US House Ways and Means Committee chairman Kevin Brady, a Republican, told a trade and politics forum that Mr Trump will have to set his own priorities for trade, but these should include moves that pave the way for more US exports.

"I hope that he allows us to make the case that, to grow our economy, it's just not enough to buy American. We have to sell American all throughout the world," said Mr Brady. "These trade agreements, done right, strictly enforced, level that playing field."

DON'T WITHDRAW, RENEGOTIATE

If we withdraw or abandon that field completely, we lose and China wins in a major way, so my advice to him will be not to withdraw (from the TPP) but to renegotiate. Take the areas that he has real challenges with, make it better.

MR KEVIN BRADY, United States House Ways and Means Committee chairman, saying he will urge Mr Trump to pave the way for more US exports.

Mr Trump said during his presidential campaign that he would scrap US President Barack Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, renegotiate the US-Canada-Mexico North American Free Trade Agreement and take a much tougher trade stance with China.

Mr Obama had hoped for a vote on the TPP in the weeks after the election, but Republican leaders in Congress torpedoed this effort, leaving the TPP's fate up to Mr Trump, who has called the deal a "disaster".

Mr Brady said he thought the deal could eventually be resurrected if some provisions were fixed, including clearer protections for biologic drug patents and financial services. But Mr Trump needs time to set his trade policy priorities, take steps to accelerate economic growth and assess the role of exports in US job creation.

Mr Brady said he will emphasise that the Asia-Pacific market is a critical one for US exporters that will be home to half of the world's middle-class consumers by the end of this decade and the United States needs to have equal access.

"If we withdraw or abandon that field completely, we lose and China wins in a major way, so my advice to him will be not to withdraw (from the TPP) but to renegotiate," he said. "Take the areas that he has real challenges with, make it better."

At the same forum sponsored by US political news organisation Politico and FedEx Corp, US Trade Representative Michael Froman said the TPP could not move forward before Mr Trump takes office in January without congressional leaders supporting it.

 

Asked if the TPP was dead, Mr Froman said: "I think I prefer the word purgatory."

But he said that the US Trade Representative would continue to work on broad trade agreements to end tariffs on environmental goods as well as a separate deal liberalising services trade.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2016, with the headline 'Senior House Republican says Trans-Pacific trade deal is not dead'. Print Edition | Subscribe