Dow Chemical CEO and Trump manufacturing advisor: How US companies can benefit from 'fair trade'

Andrew Liveris
Katie Kramer | CNBC

Fair trade is key for U.S.-based multinationals to succeed on a global scale, Andrew Liveris, Dow Chemical CEO and advisor to President Donald Trump, told CNBC on Thursday.

"I don't believe in unbalanced trade, and we will always be for movement of goods on a fair basis," Liveris told "Squawk on the Street." "And I believe we have an opportunity with President Trump to put in place the rules that level the playing field."

Liveris, joined by nine other business leaders, met with Trump on Monday to discuss the U.S. regulatory landscape. In the meeting, Trump said he believed he could cut regulations on businesses by 75 percent or more.

After the meeting, Liveris, who is the head of Trump's manufacturing council, said that he and the other executives would return to the White House in 30 days with suggestions on how to grow U.S. manufacturing. The council will report to Wilbur Ross, Trump's nominee for Commerce secretary.

"With two-thirds of our R&D and manufacturing presence in this country, as a major exporter, I love the opportunity to sit elbow to elbow with the president and my colleagues and say, 'Here's the things we're worrying about, here are the things that we have to do to be competitive, here's how to do fair trade,'" Liveris said.

"I think it's an exciting moment for Dow, and, frankly, the country," he added. The Dow CEO said advising the president would enable him and his fellow executives to promote fair trade and level the global playing field through fresh regulatory standards and investment policies.

"We have unlevel playing fields on investment policies around the world where U.S. companies cannot invest the same as local companies," Liveris said. "So that, for me, is promise."

Dow Chemical on Thursday reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings and revenue, boosted by the company's takeover of Dow Corning, which was formerly a joint venture with glass manufacturer Corning.

Dow saw a 14 percent increase in revenue in the quarter, with net sales rising to $13.02 billion from $11.46 billion. Not counting a $1.1 billion legal fee for an asbestos-related lawsuit, operating profit rose 6.5 percent to 99 cents per share.

"We're entering '17 with momentum, and if the U.S. economy keeps picking up momentum through the promise of structural reforms that the president is promising and, in fact, already starting to enact with his executive orders, this has to be good for our company," Liveris said.

Dow Chemical is also involved in a $130 billion merger with chemical maker DuPont. The deal has raised eyebrows with regulators, especially in the European Union, and the expected closing date has been pushed back to the first half of the year instead of the first quarter.

Liveris told CNBC he was confident the deal would close, saying that both companies are working hard to prove to regulators that the transaction not just result in cost-cutting, but in real growth.

"For sure, when you put two big companies like this together that have been around 300 years between them, the front end of this will result in back-office, nonessential production, R&D, [and] marketing cost-cutting," Liveris said.

But, he contended, "This is a growth story. We are re-aggregating assets, making our shareholders win from verticals that we're creating ... so we can grow these jobs." Liveris said the companies plan to invest in research and development and factory jobs.