House lawmakers headed to Asia-Pacific to talk trade

A group of House lawmakers on Friday left Washington to visit three countries involved in Asia-Pacific trade deal negotiations.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan moving family to Washington Embattled Juul seeks allies in Washington Ex-Parkland students criticize Kellyanne Conway MORE (R-Wis.) and seven colleagues departed Washington for a weeklong trip to Japan, Malaysia and Singapore, all countries participating in 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks.

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The congressional delegation will meet with senior government officials as well as U.S. and local business leaders in an effort to advance the U.S. trade agenda and strengthen ties.

"Other countries are trying to reshape the state of play in Asia, and so we have to stay engaged," Ryan said before leaving.

"Our trading partners need to know that the United States is serious about advancing its trade priorities and strengthening our ties in the region," he said.

"They also need to know that we will not accept just any agreement. We will accept only one that truly breaks down barriers for American exporters."

Ryan will be joined by panel members Reps. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), Charles Boustany (R-La.), Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) and Pat TiberiPatrick (Pat) Joseph TiberiOhio New Members 2019 Many authors of GOP tax law will not be returning to Congress GOP Rep. Balderson holds onto seat in Ohio MORE (R-Ohio), who is the chairman of the trade subcommittee.

Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks (N.Y.), who heads up the Friends of TPP Caucus, is the solo Democrat along for trip.

Ryan said recently that he expects Congress to pass trade promotion authority, also known as fast-track, legislation this spring with bipartisan support.

The legislation would help smooth approval of any trade agreements that reach Capitol Hill. 

A bill could be unveiled before the end of the month. 

In his first major trade speech last week, Ryan said that he would rather see fewer nations sign onto the TPP if it means removing more barriers.

"So for TPP, Japan and Canada just have to lower their agricultural tariffs," he said.

"If any of the 12 countries currently in the talks think our standards are too high, well, I’d complete the agreement without them and invite them to join it later."