Trade Minister Todd McClay is heading to the United States this week to meet the new US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, and US Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross.

But the prospect of a bilateral trade deal is not likely to be on the agenda, says McClay.

"The reason for that is he has only been in place for a few weeks and they have been working out their strategy and priority."

While the US has said it wants to do bilateral deals, that was more likely to be with countries which it had a trade deficit - and that was not New Zealand.

Advertisement

Last year New Zealand exports to the US were valued at $5.6 billion and imports from the US were valued at $5.7 billion.

McClay said he would be briefing him on progress of the TPP minus the United States, the TPP-11 and "the importance of seeing balance in leadership in the Asia Pacific."

"Early indications from him and the discussions I have had so far are that they not pulling out of the Asia Pacific. They are going to continue to trade.

"They want to be involved in the different bodies and organisations but they have a very particular view of some of the trade flows that they have with countries, that they want to balance out bilaterally."

New Zealand would prefer the US was part of TPP but it understand its position.

"I am going to say to him that they should keep an open mind because TPP is about the importance of the rules that reach across the Asia Pacific."

Lighthizer was confirmed as US Trade Representative only a month ago and McClay has already met him twice, at an Apec trade ministers meeting in Vietnam and at an OECD meeting in Paris last week.

"I think that probably the reason we have been invited up so early is there a recognition that New Zealand, although by size of economy is small, we punch above our weight when it comes to trade policy and involvement in trade architecture around the world."

Advertisement

One of the actions of US President Donald Trump this year, as promised during the election campaign, was to withdraw the US from the 12-country trade pact which had been the top trade priority of the Obama Administration.

Negotiations have been completed but the agreement has not yet entered into force and will require some technical changes before it can do so.

Japan has assumed leadership of getting the other 11 countries to keep the deal going, with a final decision on its future likely to be made at the Apec leaders' summit in Vietnam in November.

The United States has large trade deficits with China, Japan and Germany, as well as its partners in the North America Trade Agreement, Canada and Mexico.