Commerce Secretary-designate Robert Mosbacher said Tuesday the United States is lagging in the global race to develop a new generation of television sets, and he promised to help American manufacturers compete in this and other high-technology fields.

Mosbacher told the Senate Commerce Committee at his confirmation hearing that he was concerned that U.S. manufacturers were losing ground to foreign competitors in such areas as high-definition television.Japan and other countries have been racing to develop the technology for clearer TV pictures with the prize a multibillion-dollar sales market for consumers worldwide.

"We are losing the advantage we started out with in the high-technology area," Mosbacher said. "It appears to me that while it is very late in the game, it is not too late. We can get back in the game."

Mosbacher said he did not have any specific recommendations to make now but that this area would be a high priority once he took office. He suggested there may be a need for new laws to waive antitrust restrictions that would allow U.S. electronic companies to work together in developing high-definition TV.

"A central challenge facing the Department of Commerce is to support U.S. economic growth and international competitiveness," Mosbacher said in written testimony submitted earlier.

"To meet this challenge we must promote a better climate for increased U.S. exports (and) help American industry develop and apply new commercial technologies that will make us more competitive."

Mosbacher was praised by many members of the committee, and he was expected to have no trouble winning confirmation.

Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, D-Texas, introduced Mosbacher, a wealthy Texas oilman and longtime friend of President Bush, to the committee as a "friend, counselor, tough competitor and an international businessman."

Bentsen, who was the Democratic vice presidential candidate and was often critical of the Reagan administration's stance on trade, said he believed Mosbacher exemplified a new activism that Bush promised in his inaugural address last Friday.

Because Mosbacher is one of Bush's oldest friends, many expect Mosbacher to play a more influential role in setting economic policy than previous Commerce secretaries.