HONG KONG — U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Wednesday that the Trump administration’s priorities as it prepares to tackle “bigger” and “more difficult” trade issues with China are better market access, less protectionism and protecting intellectual property rights.
Ross spoke to reporters in Hong Kong after his visit earlier in the week to Beijing, where he met with Premier Li Keqiang, China’s top economic official, as part of preparations for President Donald Trump’s visit to the country in November.
Ross will also lead a senior trade mission to China that month, the Commerce Department announced Tuesday.
Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met when Xi visited the U.S in April, in a meeting where they agreed on a 100-day plan for trade talks to address Trump’s complaints about China’s swollen trade surpluses.
Ross said that while those talks have yielded some progress, such as a deal to let U.S. beef into China, “we’re looking for bigger things and more difficult things than what we had in the first 100 days.”
He didn’t elaborate on specific issues, saying only that at the top of the list is “better market access both for companies operating there physically and for companies exporting there.”
The U.S. also wants less protectionism and more respect for intellectual property rights from China, Ross said.
“The U.S. is actually the least protectionist of any major country and China is one of the most protectionist,” he said, while adding that the “frankness and an openness” he saw on his visit to Beijing made him optimistic about the negotiations.
Trump has slammed China’s large trade surpluses with the United States and ordered an investigation into whether Beijing improperly pressures companies to hand over their technology in exchange for market access.
Xi, who took power in 2012, and other Chinese leaders have vowed to let market forces have a bigger role, give equal treatment to foreign and Chinese companies and roll back the state industry’s dominant roll. But reform advocates complain little has been done to fulfil those pledges.