Republican candidate Trump says low U.S. wages 'not a bad thing'

WASHINGTON, Aug 20 (Reuters) - U.S. businessman Donald Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate, on Thursday said he would not back a higher minimum wage for American workers as such a move would hurt the nation’s economic competitiveness.

In a televised interview on MSNBC, Trump, a real estate mogul and TV personality, said the United States needed low wages and taxes to be competitive with other countries.

“Having a low minimum wage is not a bad thing for this country,” Trump said.

“We can’t have a situation where our labor is so much more expensive than other countries’ that we can no longer win.”

His comments contrast with growing local efforts to boost minimum wages across the country, given stalled movement of the issue in Washington. Any change in the national minimum wage, set at $7.25 an hour since 2009, would need the support of the Republican-controlled Congress and is considered unlikely.

Many companies limited wage hikes during the 2007-2009 recession. But even as hiring has rebounded amid an economic recovery, wages have yet to catch up. This hampers U.S. productivity, some experts have said.

Now Democrats, labor and religious groups are pressing their case for pay raises to state and local governments.

Last month, New York and Washington, D.C., moved to raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour, and Los Angeles in June said it would lift its lowest hourly wage to $15 by 2020. Other cities, including Seattle and San Francisco have already boosted minimum pay.

Trump, speaking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, said the costs of U.S. labor and taxes were sending companies not just to different U.S. states, but outside the country, in search of better deals.

The Republican candidate, one of 17 looking to win the party’s presidential nomination for the 2016 election, has stirred controversy for his comments on immigration and has vowed to bring jobs back to the United States that have moved overseas, although he has yet to offer a detailed economic plan.

Asked about another pay issue - equal pay for women and men - Trump said everyone should have equal access to capital but it was hard to tell if men and women were doing the same work.

“If they do the same job, they should get the same pay. But it’s very hard to say what is the same job,” he said. (Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bernadette Baum)