“The most important thing is better market access both for companies operating there physically and for companies exporting there,” Mr. Ross said on Wednesday. He added that the Trump administration wanted to see less protectionist behavior, calling China “one of the most protectionist” countries in the world.
Western businesses have raised concerns about a $300 billion plan by China to become self-sufficient by 2025 in high-tech industries, including computer chips and electric cars, that they argue may hurt foreign companies. The policy, known as Made in China 2025, is part of China’s ambition for certain industries to be global leaders with the help of state money.
“We can understand that they would desire self-sufficiency and if the way they get there is through a free and open level playing field, and it’s a fair match, we’re fine with that,” Mr. Ross said on Wednesday. But, he added, the Trump administration would object to American companies’ being forced to transfer technological know-how in exchange for market access.
In closed-door conversations with United States officials, the Chinese have expressed concerns over a broad inquiry by the Trump administration into China trade practices that has focused on potential violations of intellectual policy. Officials have also complained about the United States’ export controls.
On Wednesday, Mr. Ross blamed China for contributing to the United States trade deficit, saying it was “by far our largest single deficit.” He said he planned to help narrow the gap between the two countries by increasing exports of American goods and services to China. The Commerce Department is leading a trade mission to China in November as part of that initiative.
This year, the United States signed a deal with China to give American companies greater access to the Chinese market in several areas, including agriculture, banking and finance. Mr. Ross referred to the deal as “relatively low-hanging fruit.”
“Now we’re moving into harder things, bigger things, more serious things, and hopefully the good will that’s been built up between President Xi and President Trump will help to change the atmosphere,” Mr. Ross, referring to Xi Jinping, told an audience at a Forbes conference in Hong Kong on Tuesday evening.
But tensions remain between the two leaders. Last week, Mr. Trump signed an executive order to strengthen sanctions against North Korea; the new measures named Chinese entities.