Governments and businesses must get better at explaining the benefits of international trade deals to the public, the U.S. Commerce Secretary told CNBC on Monday, following protests against a proposed massive transatlantic agreement in Germany over the weekend.
"I think that we have to do a better job… to counteract voices that are distorting the reality of trade agreements," Penny Pritzker told CNBC at a leading trade fair in Hannover, Germany.
Pritzker and U.S. politicians including President Barack Obama have gathered in Germany to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders.
The visit has not gone without hitches — on Saturday, thousands of protesters gathered in Hannover to protest a planned free trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and the U.S. known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
TTIP would be the world's biggest bilateral trade and investment deal and could boost the EU economy by 0.5 percent of GDP, according to the European Commission. However, critics of TTIP say it could threaten environmental and consumer standards and public services.
Obama, Pritzker and Merkel have all said they hope a deal is passed this year.
"We need free and fair trade and we need trade between the EU and the United States that allows businesses to compete on a level playing field … I think that TTIP will facilitate fair trade," Pritzker told CNBC on Monday.
A large number of U.S. and European companies were in Hannover for the trade fair, including Zurich-headquartered multinational ABB.
"We are definitely a supporter of the TTIP movement," ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer told CNBC on Monday.
"I see a lot of responsible thoughts going in the right direction. If we do TTIP right, it will help with prosperity," he added.
Pritzker also reiterated Obama's opinion that it would be better for Europe and the world if the U.K. remained part of the 28-country EU. The U.K. public will vote on June 23 on whether to remain in the union or to quit — the so-called Brexit.
"A U.K. voice as part of Europe is really important," Pritzker told CNBC.
"If they (the U.K) leave the EU, they need to figure out how they do trade with the EU… it is very complicated if that were to happen," she later added.
The 13th round of TTIP discussions are being held in New York from this Thursday.
—With contribution from CNBC's Alexandra Gibbs.