Ross Presses China to Level Playing Field for U.S. Businesses -- 2nd Update
By Natasha Khan
HONG KONG -- U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said he pressed China during his visit to Beijing this week to level a "lopsided" playing field for American companies there.
Mr. Ross was in Beijing to pave the way for a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, expected in November, when Mr. Ross will also lead a trade delegation to China.
He told a media briefing in Hong Kong on Wednesday that he is optimistic about talks between the leaders of the world's two biggest economies, though neither side had signaled any concessions on the thorny issues dividing them.
Topping the U.S. agenda, Mr. Ross said, is market access for American companies. The U.S. will push China to lower protectionist barriers and improve protection of intellectual property, he said, especially as China is gunning to become a more powerful technology player.
"We do need major change, and I hope that we made it clear because the relationship is too lopsided at the moment," Mr. Ross said.
In Beijing meetings with senior officials, including Premier Li Keqiang, Mr. Ross stressed the need to rebalance bilateral trade, protect intellectual property, lower tariffs and guarantee free and reciprocal investment, according to a Commerce Department statement, which said the U.S. would act to defend its workers and businesses if cooperative efforts don't bear fruit.
But the U.S. is also looking for smaller, more concrete gains to announce at Mr. Trump's visit in November, and Chinese companies gave a different account of Mr. Ross' trip.
Beijing-based tech company Cheetah Mobile Inc. said it was invited to a meal with Mr. Ross this week to discuss deeper investment in the U.S., along with other Chinese companies from different sectors.