By David Lawder
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady said on Monday he will continue to promote the benefits of free trade agreements with President-elect Donald Trump, including those offered under the Obama administration's Asian free trade deal.
Brady, a Republican, who described himself as a "champion of free trade," told a trade and politics forum that Trump will have to set his own priorities for trade, but these should include moves that pave the way for more U.S. 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 through out the world," U.S. Rep. Brady from Texas said. "These trade agreements, done right, strictly enforced, level that playing field."
Trump said during a grueling campaign that he would scrap President Barack Obama's 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, renegotiate the U.S-Canada-Mexico North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and take a much tougher trade stance with China, labeling it a currency manipulator on his first day in office.
Obama had hoped for a vote on TPP in the weeks following the election, but Republican leaders in Congress have torpedoed this effort, leaving TPP's fate up to Trump, who has repeatedly called the deal a "disaster."
Brady said he thought the deal could eventually be resurrected if some provisions were fixed, including clearer protections for biologic drugs patents and financial services. But Trump needs time to set his trade policy priorities, take steps to accelerate economic growth and assess the role of exports in U.S. job creation.
Brady said he will emphasize that the Asia-Pacific market is a critical one for U.S. exporters that will be home to half the world's middle-class consumers by the end of this decade and the United States needs to have equal access to its competitors.
"If we withdraw or abandon that field completely, we lose and China wins in a major way, so my advice to him will be to not to withdraw (from TPP) but to renegotiate," Brady said. "Take the areas that he has real challenges with, make it better."
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman at the same forum sponsored by Politico and FedEx Corp, said that the TPP could not move forward before Trump takes office in January without congressional leaders supporting it.
Asked if TPP was dead, Froman said, "I think I prefer the word purgatory."
But Froman said that USTR would continue to work on broad trade agreements to end tariffs on environmental goods as well as a separate deal liberalizing services trade.
(Reporting by David Lawder; editing by Diane Craft)