Following a visit to Beijing this week, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross called for a dramatic shift in the United States and China’s trade relationship.  Ross met Premier Li Keqiang and other financial and economic officials, as part of an effort to lay the diplomatic foundation for President Trump’s visit to China later this year.

Tensions between the United States and China have increased in recent months.  The Trump administration recently blocked a China-backed investor from buying Lattice Semiconductor, an American company, citing national security concerns.  China is one of North Korea’s main economic partners and President Trump has criticized China for failing to do more to restrain North Korea’s threats.

“We do need major change, and I hope and I believe that we’ve made that clear to the Chinese government, because the relationship is too lopsided at present,” Ross said in a media briefing. During his meetings with officials in Beijing, Ross said he raised concerns about the imbalance of trade and investment relationships as well as the need to protect intellectual property and lower tariffs.

“The most important thing is better market access both for companies operating there physically and for companies exporting there,” Ross said.  He also said that the Trump administration wanted to see less protectionist behavior, calling China “one of the most protectionist countries in the world.”

Ross also said he 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 U.S. Commerce Department is leading a trade mission to China in November as part of that initiative.