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Lew optimistic of TPP tick: Turnbull

AAP logoAAP 19/09/2016 Jennifer Rajca

US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is optimistic Congress will sign off on a major 12-nation trade deal, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says.

The pair had a 30-minute phone discussion on Sunday night local time in which they spoke about the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

"The treasury secretary is optimistic Congress will ratify the TPP during the lame duck," Mr Turnbull later told reporters on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, referring to the time between the November election and January.

"But it obviously remains to be seen."

Mr Turnbull said he told him the TPP is more than just about economics or trade.

"It is a statement of America's commitment to the region," he said.

Both presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton oppose the trade pact, meaning it's chances of passing after January are all but dead.

"If the TPP is not ratified in the lame duck period the general view in Washington is there is less chance of it being ratified afterwards," Mr Turnbull said.

"We will continue to press for ratification but often as you know when you make predictions in politics you can be disappointed."

He reiterated his claim that protectionism is not a ladder to get out of the low-growth trap, it's a shovel to dig it deeper.

It's incumbent on leaders to explain how critically important it is for economic growth and jobs to maintain the commitment to free trade.

"We know where protectionism takes you," he said.

"Protectionism protects nobody ... It is a road to poverty."

The prime minister said calls for protectionism in Australia are not as loud as they are in other markets.

"I think Australians understand how important trade has been," he said.

Mr Turnbull and Mr Lew also agreed the Australian economy has defied predictions of a hard landing and is doing well, while the US economy remains solid.

He was also due to meet with former New York mayor and businessman Michael Bloomberg on Monday afternoon.

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